In Too Deep by Elly Redding

In Too Deep by Elly Redding

Isy Forrester has been living and working in London for six years, ever since she fled her Devon home and her break-up with Jack Mancini. Jack is her father’s godson and had been living with them since Isy was six and Jack was eleven. Jack has a secret that he won’t not divulge to Isy about why he came to live with them all those years ago, and why he won’t go back to London.

Isy’s dad, Frank, has a heart attack and she has to come home urgently, bringing her back into contact with Jack who still lives in the family home. With her father out of danger, Isy learns that Hambledon Hall is being renovated with a view to becoming a wedding venue, otherwise they will have to sell it. Very reluctantly Isy agrees to come home for three months, and help Jack to ensure the house is ready for the first booking.

She is very uncomfortable being under the same roof as Jack as it’s obvious they both still have feelings for each other; the memories from six years before come flooding back. Told from the alternating points of view of Isy and Jack, with lots of flashbacks, Elly Redding gradually peels back the layers to reveal Jack’s secret. The tension is ramped up and what we discover is quite a shock.  

It might seem that Isy is obsessed with learning the truth about Jack’s past, but until he confronts it there will always be a barrier between them; he needs to face up to it to be able to move on, and for them to have a future together.

In Too Deep was a joy to read with its vivid descriptions of the Devon countryside, witty banter between Jack and Isy, well-drawn, believable characters and sensitive handling of some fairly distressing themes. It was interesting to note the unflattering language used to describe Tom; it suggested to me that his days were numbered. I had not read anything by Elly Redding before, but will definitely go back and read her first book, True Colours.

The Winter Companion by Mimi Matthews

The Winter Companion by Mimi Matthews

The Winter Companion is the fourth and final book in the Parish Orphans of Devon series. This is Neville’s story. I had only read the previous book, A Convenient Fiction, but will now go back and read the first two to get a more rounded picture. You could read this as a standalone but would be missing so much backstory.

Justin, Tom, Alex and Neville are together for the first time since they left the orphanage; back at Greyfriar’s Abbey (Justin’s home) in Devon for a traditional Victorian Christmas. The other three all have their wives with them so Neville is feeling a bit isolated. He prefers to be in the stables with the horses and dogs anyway; a childhood accident left him with a speech problem, and he prefers the company of animals.

Clara has come along as the companion of Mrs Bainbridge, the aunt of Alex Archer’s wife Laura. She is accustomed to blending into the background, but bonds with Neville over their mutual love of animals. She has an elderly pug called Bertie with her, and seeks out Neville to look after him before she knows whether he is welcome in the house or not. Because of his problem with speaking, especially among strangers, Neville is often wrongly thought to be a bit simple. Clara can see that he is actually very intelligent, and they slowly open up to each other; he explains about his childhood accident. She tells him how she is supporting her brother through university, and hopes to work as his secretary when he graduates. There is a secret in her past that we only discover much later in the book. Her desire to be educated, and frustration with the restrictions placed on women in Victorian times, makes her an unusual heroine, and highlights how women were only supposed to want marriage and children to fulfil them. It would be another few years yet before women were allowed to go to university.

The Devon landscape is vividly described, and the stormy weather plays a large part in this story; at times the rain and wind seem overwhelming, and there is a lot of mud! There is not a lot of humour which is a shame as it would have lightened the sometimes gloomy atmosphere. The Christmas traditions of gathering greenery to decorate the house, making homemade decorations, cutting down the huge tree and all of them helping to decorate it add authenticity; the period detail has obviously been well researched. The inclusion of the extract from Tennyson’s Ulysses is very moving (the same lines quoted by Judi Dench as M in Skyfall).

Without giving anything away, I loved the ending; it brings the whole series to a satisfying conclusion. Neville and Clara have come a long way and, in trusting and opening up to each other, have overcome their fears and can move forward confidently into the future together.

Thanks to Mimi Matthews for a copy of The Winter Companion that I review on behalf of Rosie’s Book Review Team #RBRT #thewintercompanion #mimimatthews

    

Messy, Wonderful Us by Catherine Isaac

Messy Wonderful Us

Allie Culpepper sets off on a road trip through Italy, to unravel a mystery from her past, accompanied by her best friend, Ed, who needs time to make a decision about his future.

This emotional story is told mostly from Allie’s perspective, but is given added depth by occasional input from Ed and Grandma Peggy.

The past is gradually revealed through a series of flashbacks and the story that emerges is heartbreaking.

The main characters are believable and likeable, with the exception of Ed’s wife, Julia – no spoilers, you’ll have to read it for yourself!

The descriptions of the Italian scenery are breathtaking; definitely one for the bucket list. I really loved Messy, Wonderful Us and want to read more by Catherine Isaac.

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.    

Naked in Death by JD Robb

Naked in Death by JD Robb

As a fan of Nora Roberts’ mystery romance novels, this series was recommended to me (JD Robb is the nom de plume of Nora Roberts) so I thought I’d give them a try – starting with the first one, obviously. Naked in Death features detective Lieutenant Eve Dallas, a police officer in New York city.

What I hadn’t realised was that it was set in the year 2058; I kept coming across strange unfamiliar words, but eventually cottoned on to what was happening. Some things had changed, but so much remained the same. Space travel and flying cars are now the norm; guns are illegal but have been replaced with lasers; prostitution is legal and regulated; and real coffee is a scarce and luxurious treat. This is what the future looked like in 1995 when it was written.

Human nature, however, is the same as it always was. The grand-daughter of a prominent politician has been murdered. Sharon DeBlass was working as a high-class prostitute, and the way she is murdered makes it clear to the police that there will be more bodies. Eve is assigned the task of solving this case with only officer Ryan Feeney, from the Electronics Detection Division, to help her – a sign that the investigation is politically sensitive and she needs to tread carefully.

Suspicion falls on multi-millionaire Roarke. He is a personal friend of the dead girl’s family, and has the resources to make enquiries of his own. Although he is a suspect in the case, and she should steer well clear, Eve finds herself strangely drawn to him.

Roberts is a master storyteller, and the characters are well rounded and believable; Eve is tough and resourceful, but vulnerable underneath. A troubled childhood is hinted at, but she is not keen to explore it further and who can blame her.

The fiftieth book in this series, Golden in Death, has just been published. It may take me a few years to catch up, but I will definitely be reading more of the adventures of Eve Dallas. Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for an honest review.  

In Honour Bound by Elizabeth Bailey

In Honour Bound

Isolde returns to England following the death of her father, to throw herself on the mercy of her father’s friend, Lord Alderton. In the intervening years he has passed away and his son Richard now bears the title.

He agrees to help her, but she is very unsettled. Isolde has always lived in the army camp with her father, and is quite unsuited to the life of a young English lady. She has been educated, she can fight with a sword and a pistol, and her feisty nature makes her a force to be reckoned with. In some ways she seems older than her seventeen years.

The story is well written and the characters believable, but some elements of the story don’t work for me. It is unclear why Richard’s sister, Alicia, reacts in the way she does; it makes her look mentally unhinged. The romance between Isolde and Richard is not well enough developed; it seems to be a bit of an afterthought.

I really enjoyed the adventure element of the story and that it did not all take place in the drawing room like a lot of novels set in this period. I had not read any of Elizabeth Bailey’s books before but will definitely try another.

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for an honest review.

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