A great month this month as I finally got to return to Harrogate for the Theakston Crime Festival. For obvious reasons, 2020 was cancelled and for personal reasons last year was not an option for me. Consequently, Covid or no Covid, I was prepared to risk it this year. Needless to say I wasn’t disappointed and I hope to feature it soon (time permitting) as a separate post). In the meantime here’s a little taster …
l did hint last time that this month all bets were off in terms of adding titles to my tbr mountain – I was proved right! In addition to treating myself to a few(?) books at Harrogate, I also spotted an Amazon offer of a £5 Kindle credit on £10 worth of Kindle purchases. That of course meant I could go mad in the sale as I didn’t see ‘spend’ £10, I saw £5 ‘credit’, so that was another 15 titles right there. I also discovered some £1 paperbacks that were impossible to refuse. For this month I’ve decided to drop the pretense of recording the ins and outs – I don’t need to see the evidence in black and white.
Reading wise, not a bad month as I’m still on the bike (albeit with a short hiatus for Harrogate). I completed the North Coast 500 and was intending to start my latest challenge on August 1st. However, as I want it finished by the end of the year I didn’t have the luxury of losing some extra days cycling. I’m now pedalling my way from Land’s End to John O’Groats, with a few detours as if it wasn’t long enough already. Wish me luck!
Another reason for not recording book ins and outs this month was because of Kindle Unlimited. After trialing it free for a month I decided to take up the offer of 3 months at half price. Only thing was I added lots of titles to my list to be read without actually reading them. Now, as many of you know, I’m a good Yorkshire lass and don’t like to see my money going to waste, consequently I felt obliged to gorge on KU books this month which didn’t help to reduce my reading mountain. Some great reads though.
I’m still on my romance binge fest, anything to escape the realities of doom and gloom in the real world. I can at least guarantee (hopefully) a happy ever after with all the thrill(s) of the chase in between. I did have a conversation at Harrogate about how I felt a bit of fraud having not read a crime book for months. It was pointed out to me that crime books normally have a happy ending as the ‘culprit’ is caught and punished. Unfortunately, before that there are invariably several unpleasant deaths which tend to negate some of that ‘happy’ resolution for me. As always I came away enthused for more crime reading so we’ll see what changes.
So here’s to moving forward, getting the tbr back on track and having a good month, bookish and otherwise.
(NB This post features Affiliate links from which I earn a small commission on qualifying purchases)
Books I Bought this Month
Beginner’s Luck by Kate Clayborn
When three friends buy a lottery ticket, they never suspected that, for each of them, love will be the biggest win of all
A scientist with a quiet, steady job at a university, Kit Averin’s sudden windfall changes nothing, with one exception: the fixer-upper she plans to buy, her first and only real home. It’s more than enough to keep her busy, until an unsettlingly handsome, charming, and determined corporate recruiter shows up in her lab…
Ben Tucker is willing to put in the time to talk Kit into a big-money position in his firm. Especially when sticking around his hometown for the summer gives him a chance to reconnect with his dad. But the longer he stays, the more questions he has about his own future and where he belongs.
What begins as a chilly rebuff soon heats up into an attraction neither Kit nor Ben can deny – and finding themselves lucky in love might just be priceless…
A Tidy Ending by Joanna Cannon
There’s something not quite right about Linda
Her house is ordinary, even though she doesn’t feel quite at home.
Her husband is ordinary, even if he never notices her.
Her life is ordinary, but that just means Linda doesn’t have to think about what happened before.
Anyway, none of that matters now she has her new best friend Rebecca.
Not even when the murders start.
And Linda still might be able to get the tidy ending she deserves…
Retreat to the Spanish Sun by Jo Thomas
Eliza has a full house! When her three children grew up and moved out, she downsized to a smaller property… but now they’re all back. Every room in the house is taken and Eliza finds herself sharing her bed with her eldest daughter and her daughter’s pug. Combined with the online course she’s trying to finish, plus her job to fit in, there just isn’t the peace and quiet that Eliza needs.
So when an ad pops up on her laptop saying ‘house-sitters wanted’, Eliza can’t resist the chance to escape. She ends up moving to a rural finca in southern Spain, looking after the owner’s Iberico pigs, learning about secret gastronomic societies… and finding a new zest for life and love along the way.
Reasons to go Outside by Esme King
Pearl Winter hasn’t been outside in forty-three years.
Since she arrived on Dartmoor as a girl, an isolated family cottage has been her whole world. A place of safety. But now fifty-nine-year-old Pearl is utterly alone – except for the postman, the local crows, and memories of the summer of 1976.
Teenager Connor Matthews feels like a stranger in his own home.
Since his mother’s death he’s been adrift from his remaining family, troubled by the reality of moving on, and unable to see a future ahead. But when Connor begins a summer job as Pearl’s gardener, an unexpected friendship opens the door to a fresh start for them both. If only Pearl and Connor can take the first steps . . .
She’s Up to No Good by Sara Goodman Confino
For two women generations apart, going home will change their lives in this funny, poignant, and life-affirming novel about family, secrets, and broken hearts by the author of For the Love of Friends.
Four years into her marriage, Jenna is blindsided when her husband asks for a divorce. With time on her hands and her life in flux, she agrees to accompany her eccentric grandmother Evelyn on a road trip to the seaside Massachusetts town where much of their family history was shaped.
When they hit the road, Evelyn spins the tale of the star-crossed teenage romance that captured her heart more than seventy years ago and changed the course of her life. She insists the return to her hometown isn’t about that at all—no matter how much she talks about Tony, her unforgettable and forbidden first love.
Upon arrival, Jenna meets Tony’s attentive great-nephew Joe. The new friendship and fresh ocean air give her the confidence and distance she needs to begin putting the pain of a broken marriage behind her.
As the secrets and truths of Evelyn’s past unfold, Jenna discovers a new side of her grandmother, and of herself, that she never knew existed—and learns that the possibilities for healing can come at the most unexpected times in a woman’s life.
Nothing Else by Louise Beech
Heather Harris is a piano teacher and professional musician, whose quiet life revolves around music, whose memories centre on a single song that haunts her. A song she longs to perform again. A song she wrote as a child, to drown out the violence in their home. A song she played with her little sister, Harriet.
But Harriet is gone … she disappeared when their parents died, and Heather never saw her again.
When Heather is offered an opportunity to play piano on a cruise ship, she leaps at the chance. She’ll read her recently released childhood care records by day – searching for clues to her sister’s disappearance – and play piano by night … coming to terms with the truth about a past she’s done everything to forget.
An exquisitely moving novel about surviving devastating trauma, about the unbreakable bond between sisters, Nothing Else is also a story of courage and love, and the power of music to transcend – and change – everything.
Slow Trains Around Spain by Tom Chesshyre
Between soaring mountains, across arid deserts, parched plains and valleys of fruit orchards and olive groves, down glittering coastlines and along viaducts towering above plunging ravines… there is no better way to see Spain than by train.
Tom Chesshyre hits the tracks to take in the country through carriage windows on a series of clattering rides beyond the popular image of “holiday Spain” (although he stops by in Benidorm and Torremolinos too). From hidden spots in Catalonia, through the plains of Aragon and across the north coast to Santiago de Compostela, Chesshyre continues his journey via Madrid, the wilds of Extremadura, dusty mining towns, the cathedrals and palaces of Valencia and Granada, and finally to Seville, Andalusia’s beguiling (and hot) capital.
Encounters? Plenty. Mishaps? A lot. Happy Spanish days? All the way.
My Counterfeit Self by Jane Davis
A rose garden. A woman with white hair. An embossed envelope from the palace. Lucy Forrester, for services to literature, you are nominated for a New Year’s Honour. Her hands shake. But it’s not excitement. It’s rage. For five decades, she’s performed angry poems, attacked government policy on everything from Suez to Trident, chained herself to embassy railings, marched, chanted and held placards high. Lucy knows who she is. Rebel, activist, word-wielder, thorn in the side of the establishment. Not a national bloody treasure. Whatever this is – a parting gesture, a final act of revenge, or the cruellest of jokes – it can only be the work of one man. Dominic Marchmont, outspoken literary critic and her on/off lover of fifty years, whose funeral begins in under an hour. Perhaps, suggests husband Ralph, the invitation isn’t the insult it seems? What if Dominic – the man they both loved – has left her an opportunity?
I Stopped Time by Jane Davis
Edwardian Brighton. A wide-eyed girl enters Mr Parker’s photographic studio and receives her first lesson about the brand new medium that will shape her future: “Can you think of a really good memory? Perhaps you can see it when you close your eyes. Now think how much better it would be if you could take it out and look at whenever you wanted to!”
2009: Disgraced politician Sir James Hastings is resigned to living out his retirement in a secluded village in the Surrey Hills. He is unmoved when he learns his mother has died at the age of 108. In his mind, he buried her when she abandoned him as a child. Brought up by his father, a charismatic war-hero turned racing-driver, the young James, torn between self-blame and longing, eventually dismissed her as the ‘villain’ of his childhood. Now he inherits her life’s work – an incredible photography collection spanning six decades – and is forced to confront the realisation that his version of the past isn’t even half the story.
Journey across a century of change as one man explores the world through this mother’s eyes and reassembles his own family history.
These Fragile Things by Jane Davis
As a London suburb reels from riots in neighbouring Brixton, Graham Jones finds fatherhood a frightening place. How can he protect his daughter from the onslaught of change? But the future holds more fear than he can possibly imagine. One afternoon, a wall collapses, burying thirteen-year-old Judy beneath it. Rescuers who recover her shattered body from the rubble are amazed. “She’s alive,” they tell her shaking mother, Elaine. “And we’ll do everything we can to keep her that way.” With Judy’s life hanging in the balance, Graham’s anxieties seem trivial. The unimaginable has happened. Who can he turn to? While his wife puts her trust in medics, Graham’s answer is to pray – and, in his desperation, he isn’t beyond bargaining.
When Judy not only pulls through but defies medical predictions, Graham tells anyone who is prepared to listen about his miracle. Soon headline-hungry journalists are writing about ‘The Miracle Girl’. Elaine knows this is a tough label for any teenager to live up to, let alone one who’s battling physical and psychological scars. She has always understood that love is all we can cling to in this whirling confusion of a world. At odds with her husband, under siege from the press, pushed to breaking point by an onslaught of miracle seekers, she seeks solace in the arms of strangers.
Meanwhile, refusing to be drawn into her parents’ emotional tug-of-war, Judy treads her own path. But we all of us live on a knife edge. And things are about to get far, far worse.
With the trademark elegance and profound thoughtfulness one expects from this award-winning author, this emotionally-charged novel will make you reflect on belief, faith and the enduring power of love.
Small Eden by Jane Davis
1884. The symptoms of scarlet fever are easily mistaken for teething, as Robert Cooke and his pregnant wife Freya discover at the cost of their two infant sons. Freya immediately isolates for the safety of their unborn child. Cut off from each other, there is no opportunity for husband and wife to teach each other the language of their loss. By the time they meet again, the subject is taboo. But unspoken grief is a dangerous enemy. It bides its time.
A decade later and now a successful businessman, Robert decides to create a pleasure garden in memory of his sons, in the very same place he found refuge as a boy – a disused chalk quarry in Surrey’s Carshalton. But instead of sharing his vision with his wife, he widens the gulf between them by keeping her in the dark. It is another woman who translates his dreams. An obscure yet talented artist called Florence Hoddy, who lives alone with her unmarried brother, painting only what she sees from her window…
The Tudors in Love by Sarah Gristwood
In this groundbreaking history, Sarah Gristwood reveals the way courtly love made and marred the Tudor dynasty. From Henry VIII declaring himself as the ‘loyal and most assured servant’ of Anne Boleyn to the poems lavished on Elizabeth I by her suitors, the Tudors re-enacted the roles of devoted lovers and capricious mistresses first laid out in the romances of medieval literature, but now with life-and-death consequences for the protagonists. The Tudors in Love dissects the codes of love, desire and power, unveiling obsessions that have shaped the history of this nation.
The Masterpiece by Fiona Davis
For most New Yorkers, Grand Central Terminal is a crown jewel, a masterpiece of design. But for Clara Darden and Virginia Clay, it represents something quite different.
For Clara, the terminal is the stepping stone to her future. It is 1928, and Clara is teaching at the lauded Grand Central School of Art. Though not even the prestige of the school can override the public’s disdain for a “woman artist,” fiery Clara is single-minded in her quest to achieve every creative success—even while juggling the affections of two very different men. But she and her bohemian friends have no idea that they’ll soon be blindsided by the looming Great Depression…and that even poverty and hunger will do little to prepare Clara for the greater tragedy yet to come.
By 1974, the terminal has declined almost as sharply as Virginia Clay’s life. Dilapidated and dangerous, Grand Central is at the center of a fierce lawsuit: Is the once-grand building a landmark to be preserved, or a cancer to be demolished? For Virginia, it is simply her last resort. Recently divorced, she has just accepted a job in the information booth in order to support herself and her college-age daughter, Ruby. But when Virginia stumbles upon an abandoned art school within the terminal and discovers a striking watercolor, her eyes are opened to the elegance beneath the decay. She embarks on a quest to find the artist of the unsigned masterpiece—an impassioned chase that draws Virginia not only into the battle to save Grand Central but deep into the mystery of Clara Darden, the famed 1920s illustrator who disappeared from history in 1931.
Thrown by Sara Cox
Becky: a single mum who prides herself on her independence. She knows from painful experience that men are trouble.
Louise: a loving husband, gorgeous kids. She ought to feel more grateful.
Jameela: all she’s ever done is work hard, and try her best. Why won’t life give her the one thing she really wants?
Sheila: the nest is empty, she dreams of escaping to the sun, but her husband seems so distracted.
The inhabitants of the Inventor’s Housing Estate keep themselves to themselves. There are the friendly ‘Hellos’ when commutes coincide and the odd cheeky eye roll when the wine bottles clank in number 7’s wheelie bin, but it’s not exactly Ramsay Street.
The dilapidated community centre is no longer the beating heart of the estate that Becky remembers from her childhood. So the new pottery class she’s helped set up feels like a fresh start. And not just for her.
The assorted neighbours come together to try out a new skill, under the watchful eye of their charismatic teacher, Sasha. And as the soft unremarkable lumps of clay are hesitantly, lovingly moulded into delicate vases and majestic pots, so too are the lives of four women. Concealed passions and heartaches are uncovered, relationships shattered and formed, and the possibility for transformation is revealed.
The Beekeeper at Elderflower Grove by Jaimie Admans
Her new start is about to bee-gin!
Having moved into her mum’s spare room after a disastrous break-up, Kayleigh Harwood is desperate for a fresh start. When she sees an opening for a new beekeeper at Elderflower Grove she jumps at the chance – despite not knowing a thing about bees…
The abandoned manor house holds a mystery of its own – the previous owner vanished years ago – and locals have been inventing stories about the manor ever since. Unable to resist the urge to look around, Kayleigh is shocked to find drop-dead-gorgeous gardener Carey living inside!
Carey explains that the house and surrounding land is at risk of being demolished, endangering the bees, and he has been staying there to protect it.
Convinced the secret of the house holds the key to saving Elderflower Grove’s bees, Kayleigh is prepared to do everything she can to help. But is she ready to find her own happy-ever-after too…?
It Was Always You by Emma Cooper
On the last night in October 1999 the clocks went back, and Ella and Will’s love began.
A teenage Ella sat around a bonfire drinking with her future husband and her oldest friend Cole.
As Ella wandered away from the group, she found herself leaning against a derelict
archway before passing out.
The next day, Ella remembered fractured images of a conversation with a woman
in a green coat and red scarf but dismissed it as a drunken dream.
Twenty-three years later, with her marriage to Will in trouble, and Cole spiralling out of
control, Ella opens a gift which turns her life upside down: a green coat and red scarf.
When she looks in the mirror, the woman from the archway is reflected back at her.
As the last Sunday in October arrives, Ella is faced with a choice.
Would she choose a different life, if she could do it again?
The Summer Fair by Heidi Swain
Beth loves her job working in a care home, looking after its elderly residents, but she doesn’t love the cramped and dirty house-share she currently lives in. So, when she gets the opportunity to move to Nightingale Square, sharing a house with the lovely Eli, she jumps at the chance.
The community at Nightingale Square welcomes Beth with open arms, and when she needs help to organise a fundraiser for the care home they rally round. Then she discovers The Arches, a local creative arts centre, has closed and the venture to replace it needs their help too – but this opens old wounds and past secrets for Beth.
Music was always an important part of her life, but now she has closed the door on all that. Will her friends at the care home and the people of Nightingale Square help her find a way to learn to love it once more…?
A Golden Cornish Summer by Phillipa Ashley
Under the golden Cornish sun, buried treasure and family secrets will change Emma’s life forever…
Emma loved her life in the seaside village of Silver Cove. But when the discovery of sunken treasure ignited a feud between her family and that of Luke, her first love, everything fell apart. Heartbroken and betrayed, she fled.
Now, as she wades into the sparkling surf for the first time in fifteen years, she remembers everything she loved about this beautiful place. Then a huge wave knocks her off her feet. Wet and dripping, Emma is rescued by none other than Luke – who is, to her dismay, even more handsome than ever.
As their paths continue to cross, and Emma is reminded of everything she ran away from, she starts to wonder if returning home was a huge mistake.
Or could the real treasure have been waiting here for her all along?
Acts of Love and War by Maggie Brookes
1936. Civil war in Spain. A world on the brink of chaos …
21-year-old Lucy feels content with her life in Hertfordshire – not least because she lives next door to Tom and Jamie, two very different brothers for whom she has equally great affection.
But her comfortable life is turned upside down when Tom decides he must travel to Spain to fight in the bloody Spanish Civil War. He is quickly followed by Jamie who, much to Lucy’s despair, is supporting General Franco.
To the dismay of her irascible father, Lucy decides that the only way to bring her boys back safely is to travel to Spain herself to persuade them to come home.
Yet when she sees the horrific effects of the war, she quickly becomes immersed in the lifesaving work the Quakers are doing to help the civilian population, many of whom are refugees.
As the war progresses and the situation becomes increasingly perilous, Lucy realises that the challenge going forward is not so much which brother she will end up with, but whether any of them will survive the carnage long enough to decide …
The Good Left Undone by Adriana Trigiani
Domenica Cabrelli had two great loves of her life.
The first, her childhood sweetheart: a boy from the same small, sun-drenched Italian town of Viareggio. A romance born out of yearning and shared history.
Then, on an idyllic French coastline in the shadow of war, Domenica’s second love affair: a mysterious captain, with a future on the front line.
Many decades later, as her daughter, Matelda, starts to unpack her mother’s legacy, she realises there is much Domenica left untold.
About what kept her away from Italy for so long. What ultimately brought her home again.
And the secret that that bound her two great loves together . . .
The Locked Room by Elly Griffiths
Ruth is in London clearing out her mother’s belongings when she makes a surprising discovery: a photograph of her Norfolk cottage taken before Ruth lived there. Her mother always hated the cottage, so why does she have a picture of the place? The only clue is written on the back of the photo: Dawn, 1963.
Ruth returns to Norfolk determined to solve the mystery, but then Covid rears its ugly head. Ruth and her daughter are locked down in their cottage, attempting to continue with work and home-schooling. Happily, the house next door is rented by a nice woman called Zoe, who they become friendly with while standing on their doorsteps clapping for carers.
Nelson, meanwhile, is investigating a series of deaths of women that may or may not be suicide. When he links the deaths to an archaeological discovery, he breaks curfew to visit the cottage where he finds Ruth chatting to her neighbour whom he remembers as a carer who was once tried for murdering her employer.
Only then her name wasn’t Zoe. It was Dawn.
To Italy, with Love by Nicky Pellegrino
Love happens when you least expect it…
Assunta has given up on love. She might run her little trattoria in the most romantic mountain town in Italy, but love just seems to have passed her by.
Sarah-Jane is finished with love. She’s hiring an old convertible and driving around Italy this summer – it’s the perfect way to forget all about her hot celebrity ex-boyfriend!
But when Sarah-Jane’s car breaks down in Montenello, she has to stay longer than she intended! And the trouble is, love is everywhere…
The Staycation by Cressida McLaughlin
Travel agent, Hester Monday, has been keeping a secret …
Thanks to her fear of flying, she hasn’t been on a plane in years. Now Hester wants to make a good impression on her newest client, Jake Oakenfield, who was heroically injured saving an old lady, and is now laid up in a luxury hotel.
For Jake, unable to return to New York, binge watching Netflix just won’t do. He wants Hester to invent the ultimate escape and re-create her most magical holidays abroad from the confines of his hotel room.
As their perfect mini-breaks around the globe take on a life of their own, Hester wonders if her world of make-believe is all starting to feel just a little too real…
Blink of an Eye by Louis Scarr
Five friends meet. Only four come home.
On Christmas morning, DS Robin Butler has no plans to celebrate. He’ll be glad to get back to work – a wish that comes true sooner than he anticipates. A dog walker at a local beach has discovered five unresponsive people strewn across the shingle. By the time Robin arrives, one is pronounced dead, and the other four are being treated in hospital.
DC Freya West is less than pleased when the romantic day with her boyfriend is scuppered, but duty calls. As she and Butler speak to those involved, it’s clear something is being left unsaid. They claim they are friends, and that they don’t know how one of the group was killed. But why are they so cagey?
A cold case investigation unlocks some answers about the history between the beach-going gang, yet they’re tight-lipped about what prompted them to meet on Christmas Eve. Butler and West are getting nowhere, and their partnership is about to face another test. When Freya wants to come clean about events in her past, it’s not just her neck on the line, but Robin’s too. Can their relationship survive if their pact of silence is broken?
Summer of Hopes and Dreams by Sue McDonagh
Can “Dozy Rosie” spice up her life and prove she’s not boring?
Rosie Bunting has spent her life caring for others, often at the expense of her own hopes and dreams. But when she overhears somebody describing her as “boring”, she decides it’s time for a change.
Little does she realise that the outdoor pursuits weekend brochure handed to her at the local Art Café will kick start a summer that will see her abseiling down a Welsh cliff face in “eye watering” leggings, rediscovering her artistic side and unexpectedly inheriting an old fire engine. It also involves meeting hunky outdoor instructor, Gareth Merwyn-Jones – although of course he’d never be interested in Dozy Rosie Bunting … would he?
One thing’s for certain: Rosie’s path to achieving her hopes and dreams might not be smooth, but it’s definitely not boring.
A Summer of Second Chances by Carol Thomas
Does first love deserve a second chance?
Ava Flynn sometimes feels like the clothes donated to her charity shop have seen more life than her, but ‘maximum dedication for a minimal wage’ is what it takes to keep her mother’s beloved wildlife charity, All Critters Great and Small, running – especially in the village of Dapplebury, where business is certainly not booming.
But when Ava’s first love, Henry Bramlington, returns to the village, suddenly life becomes a little too eventful. Henry escaped Dapplebury many years before, but now he has the power to make or break the village he left behind – All Critters Great and Small included. Can Ava trust the boy who ran away to give both her and her charity a second chance?
The Gin Sisters’ Promise by Faith Hogan
Three estranged sisters. Six months to come back together.
When Georgie, Iris and Nola’s mother died, the sisters made a pact: they would always be there for one another, no matter what.
Now, decades later, they can barely stand to be in the same room. As his health declined, their father came up with a plan to bring them back to one another. He stated in his will that before they can claim their inheritance, they must spend six months living together in the Irish village of Ballycove, and try to repair their broken relationships.
But reunited in their childhood home, 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?
Becoming Nora by Margaret Farrell Kirby
Becoming Nora explores how unexamined pasts and repressed emotions can simmer beneath a seemingly ordinary and happy marriage.
Until the day her husband shattered her world with the news that he was unhappy and wanted a separation, Nora Stanton had been sure her life was settled, perfect in fact. At age forty, they had everything: good careers, a nice house, and two children-just as planned.
Had she concocted an image of a happy family? How had she been so oblivious?
Nora is forced to face her misconceptions and to uncover parts of herself that had gotten buried in the day-to-day containment of her marriage. As she learns to free herself, she finds herself making choices the old Nora could not have imagined.
The Cornish Cream Tea Holiday by Cressida McLaughlin
It’s going to be an unforgettable Cornish summer…
Thea Rushwood was looking forward to exploring the beautiful Cornish tourist spot of Port Karadow, but when her friend drops out at the last minute, she is forced to go solo. Arriving at her cosy holiday cottage to discover a building site next door, Thea and the annoyingly attractive, but grumpy builder, Ben, don’t get off to the best start.
Thea starts to wonder if her perfect escape wasn’t meant to be. That’s before she realizes there is more to Ben – and to the community – than she first thought. As a magical Cornish summer stretches out in front of her, Thea discovers this is one holiday that she never wants to end…
Before I Saw You by Emily Houghton
Alice and Alife couldn’t be more different.
He’s charming, talkative and outgoing. She’s reserved, efficient and a workaholic.
Forced together by circumstance, they can’t see each other but they can talk – and as Alfie slowly brings Alice out of her shell, they start to get to know each other better.
The connection between them feels real, but can you really fall for someone you’ve never seen?
The Art of Loving You by Amelia Henley
They were so in love . . .
And then life changed forever . . .
Will they find happiness again?
Libby and Jack are the happiest they’ve ever been. Thanks to their dear friend, eighty-year-old Sid, they’ve just bought their first house together, and it’s the beginning of the life they’ve always dreamed of.
But the universe has other plans for Libby and Jack and a devastating twist of fate shatters their world.
All of a sudden life is looking very different, and unlikely though it seems, might Sid be the one person who can help Libby and Jack move forward when what they loved the most has been lost?
The Night Hawks by Elly Griffiths
Dr Ruth Galloway returns to the moody and beautiful landscape of North Norfolk to confront another killer. A devastating new case for our favourite forensic archaeologist in this acclaimed and bestselling crime series.
The Night Hawks, a group of metal detectorists, are searching for buried treasure when they find a body on the beach in North Norfolk. At first Nelson thinks that the dead man might be an asylum seeker but he turns out to be a local boy, Jem Taylor, recently released from prison. Ruth is more interested in the treasure, a hoard of Bronze Age weapons. Nelson at first thinks that Taylor’s death is accidental drowning, but a second death suggests murder.
Nelson is called to an apparent murder-suicide of a couple at the isolated Black Dog Farm. Local legend talks of the Black Shuck, a spectral hound that appears to people before they die. Nelson ignores this, even when the owner’s suicide note includes the line, ‘He’s buried in the garden.’ Ruth excavates and finds the body of a giant dog.
All roads lead back to this farm in the middle of nowhere, but the place spells serious danger for anyone who goes near. Ruth doesn’t scare easily. Not until she finds herself at Black Dog Farm …
Meet Me in Another Life by Catriona Silvey
Under a ruined clocktower, Thora and Santi are about to meet for the very first time. Again.
Their connection is instant. They feel like they’ve known each other forever.
Maybe they have?
Now they must unravel the mystery of their strange connection. But some mysteries take more than one lifetime to solve…
The Village Green Bookshop by Rachael Lucas
Frustrated that she spends all her time as either a mum to a football-obsessed teenager or a wife to a workaholic husband, Hannah wants something for herself. When the chance comes to take over the Post Office in Little Maudley, a charming Cotswold village, Hannah grabs it with both hands.
But village life is not so picture-perfect after all: Hannah finds herself an outsider in this tight-knit community where the height of your hedge is a gossip-worthy subject. Even her idea to introduce a small bookshop to the Post Office causes a stir. At least Ben seems to have found his place as he joins the local football team, coached by ex-professional Jake Lovatt. But a shocking secret from their past threatens to uproot the new life they’ve made for themselves, and has drastic consequences . . .
Set in the same village as The Telephone Box Library and featuring some of the same much-loved characters, this is a charming, big-hearted novel from bestselling author Rachael Lucas.
Anything Could Happen by Lucy Diamond
Your big secret is out. What next?
For Lara and her daughter Eliza, it has always been just the two of them. But when Eliza turns eighteen and wants to connect with her father, Lara is forced to admit a secret that she has been keeping from her daughter her whole life.
Eliza needs answers – and so does Lara. Their journey to the truth will take them on a road trip across England and eventually to New York, where it all began. Dreams might have been broken and opportunities missed, but there are still surprises in store…
The Wildwater Women by Ellie Wood
Sometimes the best things in life happen when you dare to get out of your depth.
Abby lives and works in the heart of the Lake District. She splits her time between bringing up her daughter, working in the Plum Pie Bakery – and dreaming of the time before her husband, Ben, left.
Lori is on holiday from the States, hoping to find her way to the lake that she’s looked at for years in a picture on her wall back home.
Rebecca is contemplating taking the plunge too. Despite her immaculate appearance Rebecca is keeping quiet about a childhood trauma which has left her scared of the water.
Clarissa is the founder of The Wildwater Women. An all-year-round open-water swimming veteran, and with a fearsome manner, she knows the lakes like no one else and her boundless energy defies her years.
Four women, all from very different lives, all with reason to step into the water and wash away their past. But will the friendship they build be enough to keep them afloat when they each must face their fears?
Baby Steps by Anne Stormont
Sparks fly in this love-against-the-odds romance
Estranged from her mother, cheated on by her ex and grieving the loss of her brother, emotionally distraught Sophie Campbell decides she needs to focus on her career as a researcher for a TV and radio broadcaster. What she doesn’t need is a man in her life. And as for marriage and children – definitely not.
Honourably discharged from the British army following life-changing injuries sustained while serving in Afghanistan, Steven Jackson is rehabilitated and embracing life to the full. Working as the manager of a support centre for military veterans brings him a great sense of pride and achievement. But he wants more. He wants to meet the love of his life, and to one day be a husband and father.
When Sophie and Steven meet through work, there’s an undeniable chemistry between the two thirty-somethings. But will Steven’s open, caring and patient ways be enough to break down Sophie’s barriers and allow a relationship to develop between them?
Set in the Scottish city of Glasgow, Baby Steps is a contemporary romance which tells a story of love against the odds.
Many thanks to Anne Stormont for this copy won via her newsletter draw
Rizzio by Denise Mina
It’s Saturday evening, 9 March 1566, and Mary, Queen of Scots, is six months pregnant. She’s hosting a supper party, secure in her private chambers. She doesn’t know that her Palace is surrounded – that, right now, an army of men is creeping upstairs to her chamber. They’re coming to murder David Rizzio, her friend and secretary, the handsome Italian man who is smiling across the table at her. Mary’s husband, Lord Darnley, wants it done in front of her and he wants her to watch it done …
Denise Mina brilliantly portrays the sexual dynamics and politics of power – between men and women, monarch and subjects, master and servants. The period is masterfully researched yet lightly drawn, the characterisation quick, subtle and utterly convincing. This breathtakingly tense work is a tale of sex, secrets and lies, one that explores the lengths that men – and women – will go to in the search for love and power.
The Clockwork Girl by Anna Mazzola
In the midst of an icy winter, as birds fall frozen from the sky, chambermaid Madeleine Chastel arrives at the home of the city’s celebrated clockmaker and his clever, unworldly daughter.
Madeleine is hiding a dark past, and a dangerous purpose: to discover the truth of the clockmaker’s experiments and record his every move, in exchange for her own chance of freedom.
For as children quietly vanish from the Parisian streets, rumours are swirling that the clockmaker’s intricate mechanical creations, bejewelled birds and silver spiders, are more than they seem.
And soon Madeleine fears that she has stumbled upon an even greater conspiracy. One which might reach to the very heart of Versailles…
A intoxicating story of obsession, illusion and the price of freedom.
The Dark Hours by Michael Connelly
A MURDER YEARS IN THE MAKING
A murder in the middle of a street party seems a senseless tragedy. But the victim had a dark past which came back to haunt him.
THE DEEPER YOU LOOK
Detective Renée Ballard connects the killing to an unsolved case last worked by ex-LAPD legend Harry Bosch. But then a new crime shatters the night shift…
THE DARKER IT GETS
The Midnight Men are a deadly pair of predators who stalk the city during the dark hours and disappear without a trace.
Ballard once believed her job was to bring the truth to light. In a police department shaken to the core by protests and pandemic, both cases have the power to save her – or end her…
The Siege by John Sutherland
Nine hostages. Ten hours. One chance to save them all.
Lee James Connor has found his purpose in life: to follow the teachings of far-right extremist leader, Nicholas Farmer. So when his idol is jailed, he comes up with the perfect plan: take a local immigrant support group hostage until Farmer is released.
Grace Wheatley is no stranger to loneliness having weathered the passing of her husband, whilst being left to raise her son alone. The local support group is her only source of comfort. Until the day Lee James Connor walks in and threatens the existence of everything she’s ever known.
Superintendent Alex Lewis may be one of the most experienced hostage negotiators on the force, but there’s no such thing as a perfect record. Still haunted by his last case, can he connect with Connor – and save his nine hostages – before it’s too late?
Carrion by Graeme Cumming
CHOOSE YOUR WORDS CAREFULLY. WORDS HAVE POWER.
A sheet of black filled his vision as hundreds of birds dived at the cottage, pointed beaks thrust forward. From this angle, he couldn’t see many of them striking it, but the few he did see held nothing back as they hammered into the shutter. The scale of the attack was beyond anything he’d seen or heard of. And bloodied casualties littered the ground: skulls shattered, wings broken, innards spilling from them. The fact that so many of them continued with the onslaught in spite of this filled him with even more dread.
Salin has always wanted an adventure and, when the opportunity presents itself, he grabs it with both hands, taking his friends along for the ride – whether they want to or not.
With strange lands come strange creatures that stand between them and their goal. And that goal is the same for someone else, a man who believes the prize is worth every sacrifice – especially when the sacrifices are made by others.
The future is about to change. But who for?
Thanks to Graeme for gifting me a signed copy!
As she let her gaze drift around her, she saw that there were more birds. Perhaps a dozen or so, perched among the trees that stood on the edge of the clearing. And yet more were arriving, swooping down through the gap overhead and landing on branches that overlooked them. The birds weren’t threatening, yet the sight of them all coming together in this dark and isolated spot was unnerving. Tanya reached a hand out towards Martin, and was relieved to feel him take it. She felt him move in behind her. After the uncertainty she’d experienced with him in a similar position only a few moments ago, she recognised the irony of her reaction. His closeness offered security.
“You know what they are, don’t you?”
A stranger’s arrival in a small village coincides with a tragic accident. For the Gates family in particular it’s more than a coincidence, but unease increases following a brutal attack. As tensions rise, a dark past returns to haunt them and others, while newcomers to the village are drawn into a mystery with terrifying consequences.
And only a select few know why the ravens are gathering.
Thanks to Graeme for gifting me a signed copy!
Death in the East by Abir Mukherjee
When Bessie Drummond, an old flame of Sam Wyndham’s, is attacked in the street, he is determined to get to the bottom of it. But the next day, Bessie is found dead in her room and Wyndham soon finds himself caught up in her murder investigation. The case will cost the young constable more than he ever imagined.
Leaving Calcutta, Wyndham heads for the hills of Assam, ready to put his opium addiction behind him. But when he arrives, he sees a ghost from his life in London – a man thought to be long dead, a man Wyndham hoped he would never see again.
Wyndham knows he must call his friend and colleague Sergeant Banerjee for help. He is certain that this figure from can only be after one thing: revenge…
I already have a Kindle copy of this and was hoping my Capital Crime book sub would be delivered in time for Harrogate as it included Abir’s latest book. It didn’t and as I really wanted a signed copy (you can’t sign and e-book) I bought another.
The Short Straw by Holly Seddon
Leaving isn’t safe…
But staying would be deadly.
Three sisters find themselves lost in a storm at night, and seek safety at Moirthwaite Manor, where their mother once worked. They are shocked to find the isolated mansion that loomed so large through their troubled childhoods has long been abandoned. Drawing straws to decide who should get help, one sister heads back into the darkness. With the siblings separated, the deadly secrets hidden in the house finally make themselves known and we learn the unspeakable secret that binds the family together.
Thanks to Orion press for a free copy as a panel attendee
Midnight at Malabar House by Vaseem Khan
Bombay, New Year’s Eve, 1949
As India celebrates the arrival of a momentous new decade, Inspector Persis Wadia stands vigil in the basement of Malabar House, home to the city’s most unwanted unit of police officers. Six months after joining the force she remains India’s first female police detective, mistrusted, sidelined and now consigned to the midnight shift.
And so, when the phone rings to report the murder of prominent English diplomat Sir James Herriot, the country’s most sensational case falls into her lap.
As 1950 dawns and India prepares to become the world’s largest republic, Persis, accompanied by Scotland Yard criminalist Archie Blackfinch, finds herself investigating a case that is becoming more political by the second. Navigating a country and society in turmoil, Persis, smart, stubborn and untested in the crucible of male hostility that surrounds her, must find a way to solve the murder – whatever the cost.
I already have a Kindle copy but wanted a signed edition so bought a paperback copy
My Husband’s Killer by Laura Marshall
Three couples. One murder. A holiday to die for . . .
We arrived at a villa on the Amalfi Coast, ready to enjoy a sun-soaked weekend with our oldest friends – and one new face.
By the end of the weekend, my husband is found dead.
But how can I mourn him, when on the day of his funeral I discover he was having an affair?
The only suspects are the women we went on holiday with. My oldest, closest friends.
Do I really want to dig into my husband’s secret? Do I really want to know who betrayed me?
And as I start to unravel their secrets . . . do I really believe his death was an accident?
A gifted copy from another attendee in our B&B
Common Decency by Susannah Dickey (NB Book Sub)
In an apartment building in Belfast, two women wrestle with the sorrows and spectres of love and loss.
Since her mother’s death, Lily has withdrawn from the world, trapped between grief and anger. She has to break out of this damaging cycle – but how?
Upstairs, Siobhán is consumed by her affair with a married man. Her days revolve around his sporadic texts and rare visits. She barely notices the strange girl who lives below and dawdles in the foyer.
But Lily is keeping a close eye on her neighbour, whose life seems so much better and more fulfilling than her own. When resentment evolves into something darker and more urgent, she decides to teach Siobhán a lesson…
From the critically acclaimed author of Tennis Lessons comes a darkly powerful novel about two lives running closely in parallel but divided by gulfs of misunderstanding. With boundless wisdom and deep empathy, Dickey charts the anonymity and hidden intimacies of modern existence, and our profound human need to connect.
Books I Read
Leonard and Hungry Paul by Ronan Hession (owned)
Leonard and Hungry are two quiet friends who see the world differently. They use humour, board games and silence to steer their way through the maelstrom that is the 21st Century.It is the story of two friends trying to find their place in the world. It is about those uncelebrated people who have the ability to change the world, not by effort or force, but through their appreciation of all that is special and overlooked in life.
Mix Tape by Jane Sanderson (owned)
You never forget the one that got away.
Daniel was the first boy to make Alison a mix tape.
But that was years ago and Ali hasn’t thought about him in a very long time. Even if she had, she might not have called him ‘the one that got away’; after all, she’d been the one to run.
Then Dan’s name pops up on her phone, with a link to a song from their shared past.
For two blissful minutes, Alison is no longer an adult in Adelaide with temperamental daughters; she is sixteen in Sheffield, dancing in her skin-tight jeans. She cannot help but respond in kind.
And so begins a new mix tape.
Ali and Dan exchange songs – some new, some old – across oceans and time zones, across a lifetime of different experiences, until one of them breaks the rules and sends a message that will change everything…
Six Days by Dani Atkins (via Kindle Unlimited)
Two people. One love story. Six days.
He loves me… He loves me not… He loves me…
Gemma knows that she and Finn are destined to be together. They are soulmates. But then, on their wedding day, he never arrives at the church.
Gemma is convinced Finn wouldn’t abandon her like this, even though he has disappeared once before. But back then he had a reason. She feels sure something terrible has happened, but no one else is convinced. Even the police aren’t concerned, telling Gemma most people who disappear usually turn up in a week… assuming they want to be found, that is.
For the next six days Gemma frantically searches for Finn, even though every shocking revelation is telling her to give up on him. Before long, even she begins to doubt her own memories of their love.
How long can she hold on to her faith in Finn if everyone is telling her to let him go?
Don’t You Forget About Me by Mhairi McFarlane (via Kindle Unlimited)
It began with four words.
‘I love your laugh. x’
But that was twelve years ago. It really began the day Georgina was fired from The Worst Restaurant in Sheffield (© Tripadvisor) and found The Worst Boyfriend in the World (© Georgina’s best friends) in bed with someone else.
So when her new boss, Lucas McCarthy, turns out to be the boy who wrote those words to her all that time ago, it feels like the start of something.
The only problem? He doesn’t seem to remember Georgina – at all…
The Story of Us by Dani Atkins (via Kindle Unlimited)
Two different men.
Emma Marshall can’t wait to marry her childhood sweetheart, Richard. But then a tragic accident changes everything, and introduces a stranger, Jack, into her life.
Two different destinies.
Gorgeous and mysterious, Jack is like no-one Emma has met before. But Richard is the man she loves…
How will Emma end her story?
If We’re Not Married by Thirty by Anna Bell (via Kindle Unlimited)
Lydia’s not exactly #LivingHerBestLife. She never imagined she’d be here at thirty – newly single, a job that’s going nowhere and her friends all winning at life when she’s still barely taking part. So she jumps at the chance of a free holiday and jets off to sunny Spain.
Then, out of the blue, she bumps into her childhood friend, the handsome and charming Danny Whittaker. She’s always had a crush on him and they soon enter into a passionate holiday romance.
But this relationship could be more than just a fling. Years ago they made a pact that if they were still single when they turned thirty they would get married. But noone really follows through on these pacts . . . right?
Could Lydia’s back-up man really be her happy ever after?
Match Making for Beginners by Maddie Dawson (via Kindle Unlimited)
Marnie MacGraw wants an ordinary life—a husband, kids, and a minivan in the suburbs. Now that she’s marrying the man of her dreams, she’s sure this is the life she’ll get. Then Marnie meets Blix Holliday, her fiancé’s irascible matchmaking great-aunt who’s dying, and everything changes—just as Blix told her it would.
When her marriage ends after two miserable weeks, Marnie is understandably shocked. She’s even more astonished to find that she’s inherited Blix’s Brooklyn brownstone along with all of Blix’s unfinished “projects”: the heartbroken, oddball friends and neighbors running from happiness. Marnie doesn’t believe she’s anything special, but Blix somehow knew she was the perfect person to follow in her matchmaker footsteps.
And Blix was also right about some things Marnie must learn the hard way: love is hard to recognize, and the ones who push love away often are the ones who need it most.
A Happy Catastrophe by Maddie Dawson (via Kindle Unlimited)
Marnie MacGraw and Patrick Delaney have been in love for a few years now, enough to realize that they are imperfectly perfect together. Still, there are some things that maybe need a little attention. Marnie’s ebullient; he’s brooding. She thrives on change; he prefers stability. She sees marriage and parenthood in their future, but he can’t see beyond the shadow of an earlier tragedy.
Then an eight-year-old surprise from Patrick’s past shows up on their doorstep, cartwheeling into their lives and spinning things in all directions. While it’s not exactly the change she envisioned, it looks like instant family to Marnie. But Patrick, afraid of being hurt again, retreats further into himself. Suddenly, two very different pieces of a beautiful puzzle find it harder and harder to fit. How can Marnie trust in the magic of the universe when it seems to be doing its best to knock her off her feet?
But some love stories are worth waiting for. And what’s love without a little chaos anyway?
A Heart Full of Secrets by Poppy Pennington-Smith (Heart of the Hills 1) (via Kindle Unlimited)
An escapist romance with family, and the Italian sunshine, at its heart.
Six months ago, Rose Goodwin’s husband ran away in the dead of the night. After thirty years of marriage, all he left behind was an eye-watering pile of debts and a note asking for forgiveness. Now, with their family business in trouble, Rose is facing an impossible decision. Does she sell their beloved home to protect their future? Or does she stay and risk losing everything?
While Rose tries to navigate this impossible crossroads, her youngest daughter, Amelie, is struggling too.
In just a few weeks’ time, Amelie will be marrying Jed – the man of her dreams – at her parents’ home in Italy. Except something is making her nervous… and not the good kind of nervous. She hopes that being back in Tuscany, with her mum and her siblings, will help. But when she bumps into her childhood crush – Skye Anderson – on the plane over, things get even more complicated.
As the Goodwins come together for Amelie’s wedding, and family secrets are finally laid bare, will Rose find her way back to the husband she loved for so many years? And will Amelie follow her heart or her head?
Come and visit the Goodwins at their beautiful Tuscan home, a place where the sun shines brightly, where family and friends mean everything, and where there is always a happy ending.
A Heart Full of Memories by Poppy Pennington-Smith (Heart of the Hills 2) (via Kindle Unlimited)
Under the Italian sun, the past comes calling…
Amelie Goodwin has been back home in Italy for six months, but she’s still reeling from leaving her fiancé the night before their wedding. She wants to move on. She wants to find a way to be useful on the ranch, and to finally go on a real date with her childhood sweetheart Skye Anderson. But just as she’s on the verge of her happy ever after, an unexpected visitor throws everything into turmoil.
Cat Goodwin has made the momentous decision to contact her biological mother. Scared about what she’ll discover, but desperate to connect with her past, she agrees to meet the woman who gave her up when she was just two-years-old. At first, Aida seems too good to be true. As the weeks pass, however, Cat starts to wonder whether her mother is telling her the truth.
Skye Anderson is finally happy. He has left his Army career behind him, is living on a beautiful Italian ranch, and has fallen for the girl of his dreams. But when a face from his past turns up unannounced, Skye is forced to confront memories he would rather forget.
Will Amelie, Cat, and Skye overcome the hurdles in front of them?
A Heart Full of Dreams by Poppy Pennington-Smith (Heart of the Hills 3) (via Kindle Unlimited)
Elena Monroe is spending a glorious summer in Italy with her boyfriend Ethan, but it’s not just the prospect of meeting his sisters and his twin brother making her feel nervous… she’s been keeping a secret from Ethan that could change their lives forever. A secret that is bound to come out.
Amelie Goodwin is head over heels in love with her boyfriend Skye, and she can’t remember a time in her life when she’s been happier. When he’s reuinited with his ex-service dog Dallas, everything seems perfect. But what will happen when Amelie makes a life-changing decision?
Cat Goodwin has been long-distance dating the handsome German professor Stefan Hurst since his visit to the ranch six months ago. He seemed perfect. But if they’re made for one another, why is he so reluctant to come back to Italy?
How to Save a Life by Eva Carter (owned)
Eighteen-year-old Kerry has had a crush on Joel for years, but knows he’s out of her league. Then something extraordinary happens: minutes before midnight on the eve of the millennium, Joel collapses and Kerry saves his life.
As Kerry supports Joel through his recovery, they discover a connection neither of them anticipated – until, haunted by what might have been, he abruptly ends their relationship.
Over the course of the next two decades, the two are bound by that moment of life and death; each time they believe they’ve found love, discovered their vocation, or simply moved on, their lives collide again. But Joel got a second chance at life; will Kerry get a second chance at love?
Because bravery isn’t just about life or death decisions; it’s also about what happens next . . .
A Sky Full of Stars by Dani Atkins (via Kindle Unlimited)
A gorgeous love story that will restore your faith in humanity
Lisa was a professional astronomer: a stargazer. And when she gazed at her husband Alex, she saw that behind his tough exterior was a man full of love.
Alex, Lisa and their young son Connor made a happy little universe. But when Lisa dies suddenly, their universe is shattered.
Then Alex meets four strangers. Two men and two women, who never met Lisa, but whose lives changed profoundly because of her. As Alex hears their stories, he begins to find his way back to love, and to hope. Perhaps, after all, the future is written in the stars…
The Summer Island Festival by Rachel Burton (via Kindle Unlimited)
When Willow walks out on her own wedding, there’s only one place she can go…
Growing up in the island village of Seaview, Willow always dreamed of a bigger life. Then her childhood sweetheart Luc betrayed her and she ran, resolving never to look back. Now, twelve years on, her glamorous London life is a mess and the island is her only option.
But she’s not the only one back for the summer. Luc is now a world-famous heartthrob musician, and he’s finally come home to headline the Isle of Wight’s annual music festival.
As Willow untangles her messy past, she stumbles on a secret that could destroy her family, the island’s fragile community – and her second chance at love…
That’s me for this month so all that’s left to say is : Happy Reading!