Island in the Sun by Katie Fforde

Island in the Sun by Katie Fforde

I am a huge fan of Katie Fforde’s novels and, although some are more memorable than others, always read each new one that comes out (I have all the paperback editions going back to her first Living Dangerously). Cass’s father asks her to go to the Caribbean island of Domenica to deliver a map to his old friend’s son, to help him discover the location and prove the existence of a rare stone carving for a paper he is writing, which could result in significant prize money which would then be used to benefit the island. His neighbour, Ranulph, who is a journalist will accompany Cass, and they will take emergency supplies as news emerges just before they are due to leave that the island has been hit by a hurricane.

The story is told entirely from Cass’s point of view, so we have no idea what Ran is thinking. Cass has a tendency to jump to conclusions based on very little evidence, and has little self-confidence to begin with. As the story progresses, she undergoes a journey of self-discovery and works out what she wants to do with her life – she is not exaggerating when she says her family are always belittling her – and realises that she has useful skills and is very capable in a crisis.

The characters are well written, even if some are quite horrible – I’m not sure why they tolerate Austin for so long. The settings are vividly described, with a large part of the story taking place on Domenica. Katie Fforde has family connections there and obviously a great affection for the island. There are a lot of typical Katie Fforde themes running through the narrative, which will be obvious to her long-time readers. While I enjoyed Island in the Sun, I was also slightly disappointed, mainly because I didn’t feel the romance between the main characters was entirely convincing. I’m probably in a minority here, but I have no desire to go to Domenica after reading this, preferring instead the remote Scottish island where Ran has made his home. Despite this being her thirtieth novel, I hope she continues for many years to come and look forward to her next one. Thanks to Penguin and NetGalley for a digital copy to review.

Under a Gilded Sky by Imogen Martin

Under a Gilded Sky by Imogen Martin

Set mostly in Missouri in the years following the Civil War, Under a Gilded Sky is a historical romance novel that highlights the contrast between the realities of living in the wide open spaces of Missouri, and life in the city. Ginny and her sister Mary-Lou are trying to hold on to the family farm after the death of their father, but it is hard work for two women on their own, even ones as capable and self-reliant as the Snow sisters. When Mary-Lou finds Lex Carlton injured during a snow storm, they have no choice but to take him in and look after him as he would not survive otherwise. By pretending that their father is ill in bed upstairs, they don’t feel quite so vulnerable. There is an air of mystery surrounding Lex, he seems more cultured than the other ranch hands, and Ginny has her suspicions, but he gives very little away.

Ginny and Lex have a believable connection, but will have to overcome their misunderstandings, her pride, and his family in order to have a future together. The story is told from both points of view so we have some idea what they are thinking, but there are still surprises to be revealed along the way. The characters are well drawn, and the settings vividly described. Under a Gilded Sky is impressive for a debut novel and I look forward to reading Imogen Martin’s next book very soon. Thanks to Storm Publishing and NetGalley for a digital copy to review.

The Crash by Robert Peston

The Crash by Robert Peston

The Crash is a tense political thriller from the author of The Whistleblower. Ten years have gone by and Gil Peck is no longer a newspaper journalist but working for the BBC as business editor. It covers the lead up to and causes of the 2008 financial crash, and exposes greed and corruption at the heart of the banking system. I cannot say that I understood all the financial detail, but it did not matter as I got the general idea. Having been the first to break the story, Gil begins to wonder if he has been set up, who had the most to gain, and how far were they prepared to go to cover up their conspiracy.

It is a skillful blend of fact and fiction with thinly disguised portraits of political and media figures of the time, whose identity will be obvious to anyone who lived through this period in British history – we can only hope they have been much exaggerated for dramatic effect. Nevertheless, it is unflinching in its portrayal of the Oxbridge elite behind it all. The excess and entitlement on display are truly mind-boggling.

The story is told entirely from Gil’s point of view, and he is a much more rounded character in this book as we get a glimpse into his family background and life outside of work. Robert Peston is writing about what he knows, and I was fascinated by the behind-the-scenes details of TV reporting. Gil’s descriptions of his clothes and who designed them added a touch of levity to an otherwise fairly serious narrative. Hopefully, there will be more books featuring Gil Peck in the future. Thanks to Zaffre and NetGalley for a digital copy to review.       

77 North by DL Marshall

77 North by DL Marshall

77 North is the third book by DL Marshall to feature John Tyler, and though you could read it as a standalone the plot would make more sense if you started at the beginning with Anthrax Island. With everyone now thinking he is dead, Tyler is pursuing those responsible for his brother’s death when he is ‘persuaded’ to go on one last mission. Sent to an abandoned Soviet-era hotel in the far reaches of Siberia, to obtain information and rescue a scientist, he faces some of the most inhospitable conditions on the planet. Has he walked into a trap? Who, if anyone, can he trust?

In the present day, the story is told from Tyler’s perspective, but he keeps some things close to his chest that we only discover as the mystery is unravelled, slowly, layer by layer. There are flashbacks to French Equatorial Africa in 1999, where we meet a young John Tyler but don’t know if the two strands of the plot are connected or not.

There are lots of action sequences and car chases where your heart will be in your mouth. The characters are fully rounded with several strong females, and the settings are vividly brought to life, especially the perpetual darkness and sub-zero temperatures in Siberia. Every time you think you have worked out what is going on, the author pulls the rug out from under you and makes you second guess what you think you know – everyone is under suspicion at some point in the narrative. The artwork on the cover is eyecatching, and is different from the usual generic covers of thrillers like this.  I don’t know if this is the final John Tyler book or not, but I hope he comes back and look forward to reading his next adventure. Thanks to Canelo and NetGalley for a digital copy to review.

The Man of her Dreams by Sarra Manning

The Man of her Dreams by Sarra Manning

You can always rely on Sarra Manning to write a quirky and unusual take on the romance novel. Esme is having a really bad day – having a wisdom tooth removed would be enough to floor most people. Do as advised, take strong painkillers and sleep it off. Unfortunately, she has promised to attend a new-agey hen do where as a bit of a laugh she allows herself to be nagged into creating a ‘vision board’ of her ideal man. Through no fault of her own, she ends up in A&E with a head wound after an altercation with an angry cyclist. Imagine her surprise when she meets Theo while waiting at the hospital. He ticks all the boxes, and she can’t believe her eyes – is he a figment of her pain-addled imagination?

You know you are reading something special when you’re a third of the way through before you come up for air. Esme is a wonderful character despite (or maybe because of) her jaundiced view of men and relationships – her experience simply does not allow her to trust them or their motives. Her parents’ disfunctional marriage, and her treatment at the hands of her ex-husband, have made sure that a new relationship is the last thing on her mind. She has always had a rich imaginary life, which is why she thinks she has conjured Theo up, but has she?

The author has assembled a great cast of supporting characters, and there is a lot of humour to lighten the mood. Not giving anything away, but the ending is spot on – the perfect conclusion to this highly enjoyable story. I am a big fan of Sarra Manning’s writing and this was no exception. I look forward to whatever she writes next. Thanks to Hodder & Stoughton and NetGalley for a digital copy to review.