- Published: 08 May 2020 08 May 2020
Originally titled A Cat Called Cupid, this is the story of Lara and Theo who both think that a grey tabby – known as both Fluffy and Satchmo – is their cat. As cats will do exactly as they please, they must share him, but therein lies the problem.
Fluffy appeared at Lara’s door when she really needed a friend, and has helped her cope with the betrayal of her boyfriend getting together with her best friend. After this double whammy it is no wonder that Lara is not in the mood for romance, but concentrates instead on setting up her new business, Songbird Wedding Services.
Theo plays saxophone in a jazz band, and the rancour between him and Lara gets much worse when the band turn up to play at a wedding, but no one has told Lara. It’s a well-known trope in romantic fiction to have the two main characters at each other’s throats to begin with, but here I felt there was so much bad feeling they might never get past it.
I chose to read and review this book because of the cat; and I preferred the original title. I enjoyed the descriptions of Chester (a city I used to know quite well as I lived just over the border in North Wales). Being a wedding planner is also a common theme, but having the office in a summer house in her garden gave it a modern feel and she had such an easy commute.
The characters (some more likeable than others) are believable, and there is a lot of humour in the descriptions of the weddings and her conversations with her mother. I’ve not read anything by Tilly Tennant before, but I thoroughly enjoyed The Break Up and would definitely recommend it. Thanks to the author, publisher and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for an honest review.
- Published: 30 April 2020 30 April 2020
Felicity at the Cross Hotel is set amidst the spectacular scenery of the Lake District. Patrick Cross has come home to the hotel he has inherited following the sudden death of his father, and is finding the transition very difficult. He was running a diving school in Dominica, so you can understand why. Felicity (Fliss) Everdene is taking some time away from her high-powered job to help out at the Cross Hotel (her mother and Patrick’s are old friends).
To begin with, Patrick is suspicious of Fliss; is she working undercover to acquire the hotel for her father? As a globe-trotting executive for her family’s international hotel chain, you could be forgiven for assuming she would be a spoiled little rich girl. However, despite her background, Fliss is down to earth, gets on with people and is not afraid of getting her hands dirty, so she soon wins everyone over.
Without giving too much away, Patrick left the country following a traumatic incident in his youth that he now has to face up to, and come to terms with, so that he can move on with his life. Helena Fairfax handles this with great sensitivity, and Patrick grows as a character because he confronts his grief and guilt.
The love story between Fliss and Patrick is beautifully developed with just enough obstacles to keep the reader guessing right up to the end. I love the symmetry of beginning and ending the book in exactly the same location.
The characters are believable and relatable, the dialogue authentic, and the author has put her finger on the pros and cons of living in such an isolated location; everyone knows your business, but everyone looks out for each other too.
Told from the alternate viewpoints of Fliss and Patrick, Felicity at the Cross Hotel is a well-written and heart-warming story with a strong sense of place and an eye-catching cover. I thoroughly recommend that you give it a try, and hope you enjoy it as much as I did. I’ll definitely be on the lookout for other titles by Helena Fairfax.
- Published: 23 April 2020 23 April 2020
Maybe One Day was recommended in Milly Johnson’s email newsletter so I thought I’d give it a go. The road trip element was part of the attraction (I love road movies) as were the hidden letters.
Jess has just been to her mother’s funeral. Afterwards, while searching the attic, she discovers a box of cards and letters that she has never seen before. The oldest of these letters goes back seventeen years. Parents hiding mail from their children, thinking they know best, is a well-used device that works really well here. It provides the impetus for the rest of the story. Our curiosity is aroused; what happened, and why did they conceal the letters?
This beautifully written story is about so much more than a search for lost love; it also illustrates the importance of friendship, and how damage done in childhood can be overcome, but will still leave its mark. The effects of grief on mental health are dealt with sensitively. What happened to Jess and Joe all those years ago affected them differently. They found ways to cope, but they will always bear the scars.
While parts of this story are heartbreaking, this is offset by humour. I enjoyed the banter between Jess’s cousin, Michael, and Belinda (an old friend of Joe’s). As they accompany Jess on the road trip, from Manchester to Ireland, Cornwall, London and New York, they are resourceful and help to keep her spirits up.
If I had one small criticism of Maybe One Day, it would be the ending. Without giving anything away, I thought it came to a bit of an abrupt halt. I would have liked more.
I would definitely recommend this book, but it will take you on an emotional roller coaster ride so keep the tissues handy.
- Published: 30 April 2020 30 April 2020
I am a huge fan of Katie Fforde’s books and have read them all; some many times over as my favourite ones are the reading equivalent of comfort food (Paradise Fields, Highland Fling, Wild Designs and Artistic Licence).
In A Springtime Affair two threads are woven together – the stories of Gilly, who runs a boutique B&B, and her daughter Helena, a weaver. It is refreshing in a work of romantic fiction to have a main character who is older. When Gilly’s son, Martin, encourages her to sell up, it is sobering to realise that she is in her fifties, not in her eighties, running her own successful business, and not ready for the rocking chair just yet.
Having survived an abusive relationship and acrimonious divorce, Gilly has turned the home she loves into a successful B&B; she enjoys making everything just right for her guests, and is always cooking and baking shortbread. Out of the blue, her son suggests that Gilly sells her property and lives in his granny annexe, so that she would be available to babysit her grand-daughter. The sheer selfishness and greed of this plan beggars belief. I can’t believe she is even willing to consider it. However, Gilly only wants the best for her children, and does wonder if she should agree, and then she could also help Helena get her foot on the property ladder.
Unlike Martin, Helena would never dream of agreeing to this; she is an independent woman making a living as a craftsperson. When property consultant Leo turns up, Gilly is flattered by his attention to begin with, until she comes to her senses and finds out that he is in league with Martin. Alarm bells begin to ring when Helena (who is a super-recogniser) tells her where she has seen Leo before.
Jago is Helena’s landlord; she helps him rescue a kitten, and, as neither of them is looking for romance, they agree to be each other’s plus-one to stop their friends matchmaking. Of course, this is a Katie Fforde novel so we all know how it will end; the interesting part is how we get there.
A Springtime Affair is well written with believable characters and realistic dialogue. I really loved William’s eccentric aunts – they are great fun and added so much humour to the story.
For each novel, Katie has always researched some craft or occupation for her main characters; this time it was weaving, and we also learned a bit about gliding and running a B&B. This helps to make them more interesting, and other writers now seem to be following her lead (I read one recently about artisan gin, and another about being a museum curator).
I thoroughly enjoyed reading A Springtime Affair and, as always, look forward to her new book early next year. Thanks to the author, publisher and NetGalley for a copy in a exchange for an honest review.
- Published: 21 April 2020 21 April 2020
Music is powerful; hearing a particular song can transport you right back to your youth, and evoke vivid memories of times gone by. Alison and Dan reconnect, after more than thirty years, by sending each other links to songs with memories from their youth, and new ones they’ve heard since. Mix Tape is a clever idea – using songs to convey emotions. If you are familiar with the songs used in the book, you will have a deeper understanding of what is going on. On the other hand, there is a Spotify playlist that you can listen to as you read. Being of a certain age, I knew most of the songs (and remembered making mix tapes on cassettes) but I did discover a few new ones.
Alison and Dan fall in love while still at school; drawn together by their love of music. When Alison just vanishes one day, Dan is heartbroken and unable to find out where she has gone. She had always kept her horrific home life a secret from him, preferring to spend time at his house.
We only find out what prompted her flight quite a lot later, and it is shocking. Jane Sanderson deals sensitively with some fairly serious subject matter in this book – alcoholism, domestic violence, rape, homophobia. There is also the theme of too many people thinking they know what’s best for others, and their actions having far-reaching consequences.
Mix Tape is well written with believable characters that you care about (mostly). I loved Alison’s relationship with Dan’s father, Bill, and how they bonded over his love of his homing pigeons. Right from the start I took a dislike to both Michael and Katelin; I’m not sure if this was the author’s intention, or it was just me. There are also several quirky characters that add colour to the narrative – Sylvia and Dora, and Dan’s neighbours at the houseboat.
Told from the alternating points of view of Dan and Alison, both in the past and present day, the various locations are brought vividly to life – Sheffield, Adelaide, Edinburgh and Little Venice (where the houseboat is moored). Dan’s life as a music journalist has obviously been well researched as it is completely convincing. This would make an interesting film – great locations and the soundtrack is already in place.
I had not read anything by Jane Sanderson before but I will definitely be on the lookout for her other books. I really enjoyed Mix Tape; it was heartbreaking in places, but also joyful and uplifting. It shows the power of music and memory, and I can’t imagine living in a world without music.
Thanks to the author, publisher and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for an unbiased review.