- Published: 01 October 2023 01 October 2023
Eva Mallory believes her family name is cursed, so the sooner she can find a husband and take his name the better. Her family is keen to help and offers up a variety of contenders for the role, most of them extremely unsuitable. On the other hand, perhaps it’s nothing to do with the Mallory name and she is just very clumsy and a bit accident prone – a lot of people are.
Fairly early on, she meets Luke and thinks her luck has changed at last, only to discover he shares her surname. He is also the new teacher at the same school where Eva works, so she tries to avoid him, but they are thrown together repeatedly. The attraction between them is strong, so will she come to her senses, when she learns the truth behind the supposed curse, and follow her true feelings – you will just have to read it for yourself to find out.
The best things about Eva Mallory’s Husband Hunt are the scenes set in the school (you will never think of a stationery cupboard in the same way again), and her eccentric family who are originally of Polish heritage. The characters are well drawn, the Leeds setting makes a pleasant change, and there are a lot of light-hearted humorous scenes where we are encouraged to buy into the idea of the family curse no matter how ridiculous it might seem at first. I enjoyed Eva Mallory’s Husband Hunt a lot, and will definitely look out for other books by this author. Thanks to One More Chapter, HarperCollins and NetGalley for a digital copy to review.
- Published: 22 September 2023 22 September 2023
Clues to You is the third book in the ‘Love in the Comptons’ series, but can easily be read on its own as each story has different main characters, with only the occasional appearance of characters from previous books. Primary school teacher Kate Brannon is attending a 1930s Murder Mystery Weekend in a country mansion with her friends Bella and Ethan, and is not pleased to find that Max Ravenscroft is also on her team. They have history, but she gradually comes to realise that she has seriously misjudged him. With Bella and Ethan distracted by visits to the spa and a wedding venue, Kate and Max are left to try and solve the murder and win the prize money. At first, Kate is a bit uptight, but she gradually loosens up, and she and Max get to know each other better. They make a good team, and they seem to be the only ones taking the murder mystery seriously.
The setting in the Victorian manor house adds atmosphere to the story. Claire Huston weaves the two strands of the narrative skillfully together, and you forget that the characters in the murder mystery are actors, who are supposed to stay in character, but don’t always manage it. Unlike the first two books in this series, this is a combination of cosy mystery and romance. There are doubts about the competition being fixed as the prize money has not been won for many years, and this adds an extra layer of intrigue. I was vaguely aware of references to Agatha Christie’s books, and if you are a fan it would be fun to spot them. The plot is complicated, with lots of twists and red herrings thrown in, and the ending rounds it all off nicely. Clues to You was a bit slow to get going, but once it did I was riveted and had to keep reading to find out the identity of the murderer. I shall certainly be keeping an eye out for the next book in this thoroughly enjoyable series. Thanks to Claire Huston for a digital copy that I review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team #RBRT
- Published: 09 September 2023 09 September 2023
Harry has split up with his girlfriend, but she refuses to move out of his house. As he is not a fan of confrontation, he hopes she’ll change her mind and goes to live somewhere else in the meantime. Sally’s sister has moved out and she needs a lodger to help pay the mortgage. When a drunken attempt at the ‘lift’ scene from Dirty Dancing goes viral on tiktok, Sally persuades Harry to re-enact other pivotal scenes from well-known romcoms with often hilarious results.
If you are a fan of romcoms, this is the perfect book for you right from the title onwards. On the other hand, I’m not sure it would make a lot of sense if you didn’t get the references. Both Harry and Sally have issues relating to their parents that affect how they see the world, particularly the possibility of finding love and romance. Harry has been materially well looked after by his parents, but never shown any love so he does not recognise it. Sally’s parents died young and she has an idealised view of relationships, but despite her obsession with romcoms she runs a successful business so is in touch with reality.
One of the themes explored in Nobody Puts Romcoms in the Corner is that actions speak louder than words – not everyone can put how they feel into words, but it doesn’t make it any less true. Another is that nobody can guarantee that their relationship will last forever – all you can do is take a chance and hope for the best.
The characters are well drawn and believable, and both main characters do change and grow as the story progresses. As the story is told from both their points of view, we get a rounded picture of what they are thinking and feeling. There is a lot of humour, occasionally verging on the cheesy, and some serious issues as well. The films referred to are all ones I remember, and overall this was an enjoyable trip down memory lane. Thanks to One More Chapter and NetGalley for a digital copy to review.
- Published: 19 September 2023 19 September 2023
Cast a Cold Eye is Robbie Morrison’s second novel featuring DI Jimmy Dreghorn and DS Archie McDaid of the Special Crime Squad. Set in Glasgow in 1933, with the city fully in the grip of the Depression, a body found on a narrowboat on the Forth and Clyde canal rings alarm bells for the detectives. The victim has been shot in the back of the head, execution style, which is unusual in a city where violence and knife crime are rife, but guns are not. The complicated plot involves criminal gangs and the IRA, and nobody knows what the Special Branch officers are up to, as they are not big fans of sharing information with the detectives.
This atmospheric crime novel portrays the city of Glasgow as a hotbed of sectarian violence, and gives the reader an insight into the history behind it all. Robbie Morrison paints a vivid portrait of Glasgow at this time. I grew up in the area in the 1960s and 1970s, and could still recognise a lot of the places he describes. Make no mistake, this is a very violent story, but the banter between the detectives helps to take the edge off.
At the heart of this series are the characters of Dreghorn and McDaid. We get a bit more background in this second book, and this helps us to understand them better. Dreghorn is a flawed character, traumatised by what he experienced during WW1. He is no stranger to violence, sometimes makes questionable choices, but this is a nuanced portrayal of a damaged individual who has nothing in his life apart from his job. McDaid, on the other hand, is a devoted family man who can leave his work behind when he goes home. They make a good team – their unorthodox methods certainly get results.
I read a lot of what is termed ‘Tartan Noir’, and Cast a Cold Eye is up there with the best. It stands out because of the excellent characterisation, and the strong sense of time and place. I look forward to reading the next book in this gripping series. Thanks to Pan Macmillan and NetGalley for a digital copy to review.
- Published: 06 September 2023 06 September 2023
The Faking Game is the sequel to The Plus One Pact by Portia MacIntosh, and takes up the story of Cara and Millsy several years down the line. On the surface, things are as good as ever, but what their families don’t know is that they split up six weeks previously before Millsy went to LA. I’ve never come across a sequel to a romantic novel before, as in this fictional world you don’t expect things to go wrong (unlike in real life). Amazon describes The Faking Game as a ‘laugh-out-loud fake relationship romantic comedy’, but this was not quite my experience of it. While there were some amusing incidents (trouble still follows Cara and Millsy wherever they go), my overwhelming feeling was of sadness and confusion. It was never clear to me exactly why they had decided to split up. I kept on reading as I like the characters and had to hope they would eventually come to their senses. Part of the problem for me was that we only get Cara’s point of view, so have no idea what Millsy is thinking.
They had arranged a large gathering of both families at Millsy’s gran’s house in Scotland, so decided to pretend to still be together until afterwards to avoid spoiling it for everyone. Added to this, Millsy has come back from the US with a voice coach in tow, as he is having trouble nailing the southern accent required for the part he is to play in a film. Tally is tactless and insensitive, goes everywhere Millsy goes, and I don’t know how Cara managed to keep her cool when Tally kept getting in the way.
It is very clear from the outset that Cara is not happy with the situation and wants them to get back together, but like the reader has no idea what Millsy wants. Lack of communication seems to be at the heart of The Faking Game. While I did not enjoy this as much as the previous book, it was fun catching up with the familiar characters, and the ending is definitely worth waiting for. Standout characters for me were Cara’s new work partner Charlie, and Millsy’s gran Iona. I’m not sure that The Faking Game would make much sense as a standalone – I think you would be better to read both books in order to understand what is going on. Thanks to Boldwood Books and NetGalley for a digital copy to review.