Knee Deep by DE Haggerty

Knee Deep by DE Haggerty

Knee Deep is the fourth and final book in the ‘Love in the Suburbs’ series, and tells the story of Violet and Luke, former high-school sweethearts, brought into each other’s orbit again by mutual friends. They definitely have unfinished business!

DE Haggerty has been hinting at their secret since Grandma unsuccessfully tried to pair Luke off with Shelby in the second book, though they did remain friends. Violet started working for Frankie and Jackson at F&J’s Events in the third book, and sparks flew whenever she and Luke came into contact with each other.

Obviously, there was no way they could keep their past a secret for very long with Grandma and the rest of the gang nagging away at them. Lack of communication and jumping to conclusions are behind the bad feeling that exists between Luke and Violet. Thrown together at various parties and weddings, they have to learn to trust one another again, as the attraction between them is as strong as ever.

Right from About Face (the first book in the series), Grandma has stolen the show. I’ve said it before, but she is hilarious on the page, but would be a nightmare in real life as she does not respect anyone’s boundaries. She means well, but just can’t keep her nose out of everyone’s business as she goes about her matchmaking.

Told alternately from the points of view of Violet and Luke, we get both sides of the story. There is not much in the way of plot, but with the weddings of both Shelby and Jackson, and Bailey and Roman, and the associated fuss of the hen (bachelorette) parties, the story moves towards a satisfying conclusion.

As you would expect with a group of young people who spend a lot of time together, there is a lot of banter; the slang is very American and I didn’t always ‘get’ it, but it didn’t detract from my overall enjoyment of the story. This series has definitely run its course. It is quite difficult to sustain the reader’s interest, as there tends to be a lot of repetition, but well-drawn, likeable characters go a long way to making up for that.

Thanks to DE Haggerty for a copy that I review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team #RBRT

Hello Again by Isabelle Broom

Hello Again by Isabelle Broom

Pepper runs art classes where she helps others to realize their artistic potential, but has no faith in her own talent. She has lived all her life in the Suffolk coastal town of Aldeburgh, where a family tragedy has haunted her for the past twenty years. When her elderly friend, Josephine, requests her company on a trip to Europe to revisit old haunts associated with her first love, Jorge, Pepper decides the time has come to broaden her horizons.

It is in Portugal that Pepper first meets and falls in love with Finn, who runs a restaurant in Hamburg with his friends; he is also in the process of setting up a website for artists to display and sell their work. He and Pepper are trying to make their long distance relationship work when something happens that puts all their plans in jeopardy – no spoilers here though, so you’ll have to read Hello, Again for yourself to find out.

Lisbon is described by Isabelle Broom with an artist’s eye – the pictures made from brightly coloured mosaic tiles everywhere they look, rows of houses where each one is a different pastel hue, and the Banksy-style arty graffiti decorating the walls. I started out knowing nothing about the city but would definitely love to go there now. Same goes for Barcelona with its colourful, vibrant streets and all the wonderful buildings designed by Gaudi.

Hello, Again is a beautifully written story with vivid descriptions and totally believable characters. At the beginning, Pepper seems weighed down by grief and guilt at the loss of her sister so many years before, but when Josephine encourages her to spread her wings, and Finn convinces her that she is talented, she takes the first steps on the road to recovery.

This is the first book I have read by Isabelle Broom, but I fully intend to explore her back catalogue as soon as I can. Thanks to the author, Hodder and NetGalley for a review copy.

Escape to the French Farmhouse by Jo Thomas

Escape to the French Farmhouse by Jo Thomas

Del and Ollie moved to France six months previously, and, as it has not lived up to Ollie’s expectations, they are now packed up ready to go back to the UK. At the very last minute, as the removal lorry is about to head off, Del realizes that she wants to stay and try to make a go of it somehow.

What follows, even bearing in mind this is a work of fiction, is pretty far fetched. There are some interesting threads about the treatment of homeless people, and the behaviour of the British ex-pats in the town. I liked that Del took Stephanie, and her son Tomas, under her wing and helped them build a new life. Some of the characters, however, were not convincing as fully rounded human beings.

Jo Thomas vividly captures the sights and aromas of Provence, and you can almost smell the lavender as you read the story. For me, this was also part of the problem; there is just too much lavender. Don’t get me wrong, I  love the smell, in soap and bath oil, but not the taste in absolutely everything I eat.

Told in the first person, we get the whole story through Del’s eyes – which has its limitations – with a lot of repetitious thoughts, and no alternative perspective. This is really hard to pull off, and here it just did not work for me.

With an attractive cover and a cute dog, Escape to the French Farmhouse is a great way to take your mind off the British weather.

Thanks to the author, Corgi and NetGalley for a copy to review.

Sunny Days and Sea Breezes by Carole Matthews

Sunny Days and Sea Breezes by Carole Matthews

I have read and loved all of Carole Matthews’ books, and Sunny Days and Sea Breezes was no exception. Needing some time alone, Jodie escapes to the Isle of Wight and her brother Bill’s houseboat, Sunny Days. Cue the arrival of Marilyn, hired by Bill to clean the houseboat and look out for his sister. Jodie has never met anyone like her before, with her flamboyant clothes and unusual turns of phrase, but Marilyn turns out to be exactly what she needs.

Gradually the other people she meets in Cockleshell Bay – her neighbour Ned, living statue George, and Ida who runs the café – enable her to see that what will help her most is to loosen up, and try new experiences, not hide herself away from the world.

Eventually her past catches up with her, and she has to return to reality. Carole Matthews deals very sensitively with some extremely upsetting subject matter in Sunny Days and Sea Breezes – loss of a child, grief and infidelity – but still delivers an entertaining and uplifting tale full of hope and the importance of friendship.

The first person narrative works well because we have to wait for Jodie to gradually reveal what has happened to cause her so much pain. All the characters are well drawn and believable, but not all are particularly likeable. I thought Della was behaving oddly from the start, but had no idea of the depth of her treachery. No spoilers, but there is a scene at the gym involving her handbag and clothes that is just priceless.  

I believe Carole Matthews wrote Sunny Days and Sea Breezes after enjoying a holiday on the Isle of Wight, and this shines through the glorious descriptions of life on the island. I am definitely keen to take a trip and see for myself.

Thanks to the author, Sphere and NetGalley for a review copy.

 

Victim 2117 by Jussi Adler Olsen

Victim 2117 by Jussi Adler Olsen

Victim 2117 is the eighth in the Dept Q series of novels, set in Denmark, featuring Inspector Carl Mørck and his colleague Assad. I read and enjoyed the first couple of books a few years ago, and watched the excellent movies, but did not feel at a disadvantage that I had not read the other books in the series; this works perfectly well as a standalone, as any backstory is seamlessly inserted into the narrative.

The story is told from multiple points of view which gives the reader greater insight into what is going on than the police. It is a complicated plot that requires Carl and Assad to work with the German police in order to prevent a terrorist atrocity in Berlin.

Up until now Assad has been quite an enigmatic character – his colleagues do not know much about him. When refugees from Syria are washed up on the beach in Ayia Napa, the pictures are in newspapers all over the world. Assad recognizes faces from his past and is shocked into revealing his story. It is a harrowing tale, quite difficult to read in places, but very topical as it deals with refugees, the situation in the Middle East and the constant threat of terrorist plots. It is also personal – someone from his past is sending Assad a message, clearly with revenge in mind.

Alongside the main investigation, a secondary plot strand (no spoilers) could easily have been omitted, as I felt it was a distraction, but it did highlight the psychological effect of violent computer games on impressionable youth.

The characters are well drawn and believable and, despite the upsetting subject matter, the story is thrilling and entertaining. The ending is a terrifying race against time with the suspense ramped up to the max.

Thanks to the author, Quercus and NetGalley for a review copy.

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