Wilde Like Me by Louise Pentland (Blog Tour)

Wilde Like Me by Louise Pentland

 

39297794Publisher: Bonnier Zaffre

Publishing Date: 17th May 2018

Series: Robin Wilde #1

Source:  Received from the publisher in return for an honest review, thank you!

Number of pages: 400

Genre: Women’s Fiction, General Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

Synopsis:

THE NUMBER 1 SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER!

Fans of Sophie Kinsella and Lindsey Kelk will love Wilde Like Me.

You’ll never forget the day you meet Robin Wilde!

Robin Wilde is an awesome single mum. She’s great at her job. Her best friend Lacey and bonkers Auntie Kath love her and little Lyla Blue to the moon and back. From the outside, everything looks just fine.

But behind the mask she carefully applies every day, things sometimes feel . . . grey. And lonely.

After 4 years (and 2 months and 24 days!) of single-mum-dom, it’s time for Robin Wilde to Change. Her. Life!

A little courage, creativity and help from the wonderful women around her go a long way. And Robin is about to embark on quite an adventure . . .

Rating: four-stars

Before reading “Wilde Like Me” I didn’t know about Louise Pentland, and I had no idea she is a well – known youtuber, as it is totally not my thing. I was, however,  incredibly intrigued by her book because I’ve heard tons of great things about it, and I loved the synopsis. It took me some time to find some spare time to eventually read it and even though the book turned out to be a little different to what I was expecting, I did enjoy it – I’ve finally got a very realistic, down – to – earth story about a single mum, with all the ups and downs that life brings. Honest and genuine – Robin might have come across as depressive, feeling down all the time but hell, this is life, this is the truth, and I could only admire her honesty and the way she tried to pick herself up and give her incredibly adoring daughter Lyla wonderful time.

I think the author has done a great job with the main character, Robin. She was not an easy person to like, me thinks – she was surrounded by wonderful people, incredible aunt and had a brilliant daughter, yet I had a feeling that the only thing that Robin wants is to have a man, that without a man she won’t feel fulfilled. There was also the issue of never – ending self – deprecating. But all of this somehow worked, she seemed realistic and incredibly honest and it just felt genuine. There was not beating around the bush with Robin, we got her just like she really was, there were no hidden masks, there was only her true face and this is why I think Robin worked for me. I also got The Emptiness – yes, it seemed as if she was having depression and more than a man she’s rather needed a therapy perhaps – maybe because I also got a period in my life when I felt exactly the same, so I could absolutely and fully relate to Robin and her feelings, and all I wanted was to cheer her on, not to tell her to pull her socks up.

The writing style was really not bad for a debut novel, though there were moments it felt a little rough and not too well rounded but I could really live with it and altogether it was fun and light – hearted and the poignant and heavier moments were very well balanced. It was not a book that is going to change my world but it was a light and entertaining read that more than once rang a bell or two. I liked that the story focused so much on the emotions and feelings of the main character and bitter – sweetly told things as they really are, with all the ups and downs of being a single mum. Roll on book 2!

 

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A Beautiful Day for a Wedding by Charlotte Butterfield

A Beautiful Day for a Wedding by Charlotte Butterfield

 

51b2ytfnkllPublisher: HarperImpulse

Publishing Date: 11th May 2018

Source:  Received from the publisher via NetGalley in return for an honest review, thank you!

Number of pages: 400

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Romance

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback (out on 26.07.2018)

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

A wonderfully heartwarming and feel good novel about love in all its forms. Katie Fforde meets Lucy Vine!

What could possibly go wrong?

Wedding journalist Eve is over the moon when her three best friends and her brother all decide to get married in the same summer. But when she finds out the man she once thought she’d be walking up the aisle with is back in the country and on all the guestlists, she can’t wait for wedding season to be over.

As if Ben’s sudden reappearance isn’t enough, her bridezilla besties have her polishing floors, searching for giant flamingos and dog-sitting while they jet off on honeymoon. Her only release is writing an anonymous column full of her bitter bridesmaid tales – she just needs to make sure the happy couples never find out…

Between facing her relationship demons and juggling her maid-of-honour duties, is Eve doomed to be left out of this summer of love?

Rating: five-stars

Eve is a wedding journalist, so if you’re planning a wedding she the person to go to, and well, all of her friends that are getting married, as well as her brother that is also getting married, shamelessly use this fact and treat Eve as an agony aunt who knows everything and everybody that’s worth knowing. Basically, Eve is happy with this. Until one day, at one of the weddings, Ben shows up out of the blue. Ben, who was supposed to fly with her to New York few years ago, and they were supposed to spend their lives together, to have children and happy ever after. Moreover, Ben seems to show up everywhere now! Moreover, according to some prediction from a psychic séance (don’t ask) Eve should look out for a guy whose name starts with “B”. Is it Ben? After all those years and breaking Eve’s heart? Or is it Bruno? Or any other man whose name starts with “B”?

I adore books about weddings, and especially when the weddings really take place in the story, just like in this book, and the more hilarious and unthinkable the better, and this novel really ticked all the boxes. It covered everything when it comes to hen dos and weddings, guys. Not only psychic séances but also Harry Potter themes parties, through bridezillas to the more laid – back brides to be. Also, the weddings – I loved the weddings, guys. I’m a real sucker when it comes to the wedding and Charlotte Butterfield covered all kinds of weddings, and it was absolutely brilliant – from the very, very minuscule planned one to one that took place on the field and the guest were sitting on hay bales – also because of psychic séance. Don’t ask – read the book!

The characters were really well written and developed, though mostly some of them were a little bit too overdrawn for my liking. If we weren’t supposed to like them they were described in a way that made it impossible to like them. I’d love them to be a little more three – dimensional. I wanted to pack Tanya off to the moon and never let her come back again, and I really admired the other characters that put up with her for so long and so patiently – hats off to them. Eve’s best friend Becky seemed a little too passive for my liking, and as if she really didn’t care about anything and I longed for a moment when she took matters in her own hands. You can be laid back but you can also be too laid back, and Becky was the latter.

This book truly ticked all the boxes for a light – hearted, perfect summer read. There was enough drama, enough happiness, heartbreak and happy endings, love, hate and friendship. It was full of fun and sunshine, antics that had me in giggles, and second chances. Charlotte Butterfield’s writing style is light and so easy to follow and full of heart and humour. So yes, it was a laugh – out – loud book and it was just what I needed. It was equally funny and romantic and often the authors can overdone with such novels, on such topics and you as a reader have a feeling that everything is too forced and untrue – here on the other hand everything worked smoothly and nothing was too pushed. It was hilarious but still on the right side. Yes, it was a little predictable and some of the things you’ve just seen coming in seven – league boots but on the whole it didn’t spoil the reading and the joy. “A Beautiful Day for a Wedding” is the best example that a simple idea can also work brilliantly!

 

 

Escape to the Country by Alison Sherlock / Blog Tour

Escape to the Country by Alison Sherlock

 

39423188Publisher: Aria

Publishing Date: 1st May 2018

Series: Welcome to Willow Tree Hall #2

Source:  Received from the publisher via NetGalley in return for an honest review, thank you!

Number of pages: 458

Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Women’s Fiction, Romance

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

Synopsis:

Everyone is running away from something – but will an escape to the countryside suit everyone? Full of warmth, laughter tears and heartache. Perfect for the fans Jill Mansell and Carole Matthews.

Journalist Eleanor McCartney leads a glamorous life in London exposing the sordid secrets of famous celebrities for Hot Gossip! magazine. But her perfect life is a sham. So when her world collapses, she has to reluctantly head home to her mum and friends in the quiet country village of Cranley.

Willow Tree Hall is still in the midst of extensive renovations under the careful eye of Eleanor’s best friend Annie and her fiancé, record producer and future Earl of Cranley, Sam Harris.

With a recording studio now in the grounds of the estate, it should be the perfect place for global singing sensation Tom Kingsley to hang out. But Tom is burnt out after a gruelling worldwide tour and is escaping the paparazzi after yet another scandal. Eleanor cannot believe her luck. A story on the world’s biggest superstar would be the ticket that gets her job and glamorous life back in London.

But soon both Eleanor and Tom begin to fall under the spell of Willow Tree Hall. Eleanor begins to wonder whether she can really betray his trust. And does she really want her old life back or is home really where the heart lies?

As a heatwave soars, friendships are made, truths are told and, with the help of a stray dog, perhaps love can be found as hearts are healed. By escaping to the country, maybe Eleanor and Tom have found their new beginning.

Rating: four-stars

This is the second book in the “Welcome to Willow Tree Hall” series and it introduces us to new characters but also some of the old ones that we got to know in the previous book are on the scenes as well. The first book, “A House to Mend a Broken Heart”, introduces us to Annie, the housekeeper to an Earl of Cranley, Arthur. Even though “Escape to the Country” is a sequel, it focuses on new characters who also fall under the spell of the beautiful Willow Tree Hall, and it can be read as a stand – alone.

After eight years of doing her job as a celebrity journalist Eleanor gets herself fired. Moreover, she also breaks up with her boyfriend, so the only thing that she can do right now is come back home to help her mum who’s broken her leg. Only a good story about a big name could get her back in the game but well, it’s not London where she’s living now, right? It’s only a tiny village. However, as it turns out, a big rock star lives currently at Willow Tree Hall, and who runs it? Only Eleanor’s best friend Annie! Is Eleanor going to revive her career with the unwitting help of Tom?

The characters were – again – really well developed. As I have already mentioned, there were characters from the previous book, Annie and Sam, Arthur and Rose, and it was really nice to get a glimpse into their lives as well, to see what they’re doing after their stories ended, and they didn’t disappoint, especially Rose with her antics and a corset – and they still had a story to tell, which was a double bonus. I liked how down to earth Alison Sherlock has created her celebrity. Tom was very understated and I liked his approach, he loved his music, and writing songs and he didn’t abuse his position. Eleanor is a celebrity journalist and her career is actually on a bad patch and well, she’s fired. Only a good story can save her career and as hers and Tom’s paths accidentally cross she hopes it could be his story.

It was a story about rediscovering the important things in life, to finding the real sense and depth of life and what’s important is usually hidden deep under the surface. It was warm and light – hearted, for me personally though the book could be much shorter. There were much too many moments for my liking that were dragging on and I just had a feeling that many chapters were added only to make the book longer, as there was nothing in particular happening, they were telling the same thing in other words. Nevertheless, it was a nice enough read about families, relationships and values, about realising what is really important and that sometimes it’s better to give up. It also touched upon second chances and new beginnings, so there was really something for all readers to find.It was funny yet wise, and I really liked this mix, it was perfectly blended. Sure, it was predictable, you knew from the very beginning how it’s going to end and what twists are going to try to complicate the characters’ lives but sometimes it’s nice to read such uncomplicated – and I mean in a very positive way – tale of friendship and values. Recommended!

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The Wish by Alex Brown

The Wish by Alex Brown

 

35085817Publisher: HarperCollins

Publishing Date: 17th May 2018

Source:  Received from the publisher via NetGalley in return for an honest review, thank you!

Number of pages: 416

Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Women’s Fiction, Romance

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

Synopsis:

Sam Morgan knows he messed up with his wife Chrissie and daughter Holly – he wasn’t there when they needed him most, but now he’ll do anything to put his family back together again. Until then, he’s living in the picture-postcard village of Tindledale helping to renovate the Blackwood Farm Estate for its elusive new owner.

Jude Christmas is coming home for good this time. She’s taking over the antique shop in Tindledale, the place where she grew up and she’s going to make sure she’s there for her friend, Chrissie, and Goddaughter, Holly. They certainly need her right now.

Rating: four-stars

 

“The Wish” introduces us to Sam, who’s coming back home – he’s been living in Singapore because of his job for over a year. His marriage is in jeopardy and his daughter Holly has been diagnosed with diabetes. Sam is desperate to make everything right, but when he returns to Tindledale he realises that it won’t be too easy – his wife Chrissie is determined to end their marriage, even though Holly’s biggest dream is for her parents to get back together and to have a loving family again. Sam is resolute to prove to Chrissie that he’s back for good and that he’s serious now.
Jude moves back to the village from Los Angeles and opens an antique shop. She’s Chrissie best friend and Holly’s godmother and she hates to see them so upset. Holly trusts Jude and asks her to help her with her plan to bring her parents back together. The question is, is it possible or is it too late already?

“The Wish” is another book that is set in this gorgeous village of Tindledale but, even though there are some old characters on the scenes, it introduces us to some very new ones and it can absolutely be read as a stand – alone, as there really is no need on any catch – up. The story is told by narrators, those of Sam, Chrissie, Jude and Holly and it was great to hear their points of view. They all add this extra insight into everything that is going on, not only with their lives but also in relation to other characters and what makes them tick. Also because of this multiple points of view the story progresses relatively slowly, as it also focuses on the villagers, and gives us insight into the characters’ lives but nonetheless, the pace is right.

Now, guys. Don’t get me wrong. I love an Alex Brown book, I do, but this novel had some weaker points that just bothered me too much. Firstly, I had big problems with Chrissie, one of the main characters. In fact, I’ve never warmed to her – she came across as a very spoiled and very hesitant and to be honest to this moment I’m not sure what she wanted to achieve alienating Sam. She wanted a great life and she agreed Sam can work abroad but then she changed her mind and went all offended. Yes, I understand, Sam could step it up a notch, yes, he put his job before everything other, but he wanted to make amends and he didn’t do this for himself, he was trying to provide for his family. The way Chrissie behaved was childish and I just couldn’t help but roll my eyes at the scenes with her. Yes, I do get it – she was alone and was having a hard time juggling the house, Holly’s diabetes, loneliness, and I didn’t expect her to be ecstatic at Sam’s comeback but really, this blowing hot and cold, this indecision, the fact that she was so bitter and unhappy when – in fact – she didn’t have a reason just didn’t sit with me. Somehow, I just couldn’t connect to her! I’m not sure why, I never before had this problem with Alex Brown’s characters, I can’t put my finger on it, it’s just she felt superficial. I’m sorry, but it’s the way I feel. All the characters were nice, don’t get me wrong, but I wanted them to be more than nice, to be more three dimensional. I wasn’t sure if we should fall for Chrissie or for Sam – but it’s my problem, guys, so don’t worry, and really, other than that it was so typical Alex Brown’s book, full of tenderness and love and I had a feeling the author has written this book with her heart on her sleeve, it was so honest and authentic and delivered absolutely brilliant story.
Then there were the repetitions – there came a moment that I thought that if I read the “Get Mum and Dad Together in Time for My Birthday” sentence once more I’m going to cry. Then at every possible opportunity the repetitive mentions that Chrissie was Jude’s best friends, that Holly had diabetes… It was as if we were supposed to forget about it and the author felt the need to remind us about it at every potential convenience.
The story had some twists and turns, which is a great thing, but each time I had a feeling that they’re being explored from above, from below, right and left, like with the above mentioned diabetes or Sam fixated on the fact that Holly may need a kidney transplant, even though there was not a single indication that this might be possible at all. So we belabour the topic through few chapters and then it’s over, nothing more, and it just felt as if the story was so chopped. The few chapters where Sam was obsessed about his blood group, there were so many heavy hints on this what’s going to happen, and I only thought that Alex Brown could really do this better. It was also too predictable for my liking.

There was this hard to put into words feeling of genuity in this story. It was not over – done, it sounded realistic and down – to – earth, even if sometimes the characters acted and reacted like drama queens – well, actually, we all sometimes act this way, no? It touched upon different issues, such as betrayal, lies and medical conditions, this all seamlessly blended. Even though it was not my favourite Alex Brown’s read, I will still recommend it – it was steady enough, it was a heart – warming, lovely and charming tale. It actually ticks all the box for a perfect summer read – there is enough drama and enough humour, there is a budding and an old romance, it’s funny and also touching at the right heartstrings. And of course it has the greatest asset ever – Alex Brown’s wonderful, colourful and light – hearted writing style, and she can so beautifully write about emotions and feelings.

 

 

The Wedding Date by Zara Stoneley (Blog Tour)

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The Wedding Date by Zara Stoneley

 

38576218Publisher: HarperImpulse

Publishing Date: 20th April 2018

Source:  Received from the publisher via NetGalley in return for an honest review, thank you!

Number of pages: 400

Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Women’s Fiction, Romance

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

Synopsis:

One ex.
One wedding.
One little white lie.

When Samantha Jenkins is asked to be the maid of honour at her best friend’s wedding, she couldn’t be happier. There are just three problems…

1) Sam’s ex-boyfriend, Liam, will be the best man.
2) His new girlfriend is pregnant.
3) Sam might have told people she has a new man when she doesn’t (see points 1 and 2 above)

So, Sam does the only sensible thing available to her… and hires a professional to do the job.

Actor Jake Porter is perfect for the role: single, gorgeous and cheap! Sam is certain it’s the perfect solution: no strings, no heartbreak and hopefully no chance of being found out.

But spending a week in the Scottish Highlands with Jake is harder than she imagined. He is the perfect boyfriend, charming, sexy and the hottest thing in a kilt since Outlander! And his dog Harry is quite possibly the cutest things Sam has ever seen!

As the wedding draws closer, Jake plays his part to perfection and everyone believes he is madly in love with Sam. The problem is, Sam’s not sure if Jake is acting anymore…

Rating: four-stars

Sam (also Samantha but never Sammy!) has been asked to be the maid of honour at her best friend’s wedding in Scotland, and this includes a week full of activities in a castle! So far, so good but there is one problem – Sam’s ex – boyfriend is going to be the best man, and moreover, he’s going to be there with his new girlfriend – a VERY pregnant girlfriend. So Sam must not only look gorgeous but she needs a new boyfriend, pronto. Desperate needs call for desperate measures, so Sam decides to hire this new boyfriend. Enters Jake, incredibly handsome and lovely actor but as it turns out with his own baggage – now he only has to prove that his acting skills are really well. Or are those acting skills at all?

Being a huge fan of Zara Stoneley’s and her novels, I couldn’t be more excited to see her new book on NetGalley. However, I was a little surprised, as the blurb to “A Wedding Date” sounded very different to her other books, and the cover – well, it is a nice cover but it is light-years away from the other covers. I know, I know, they can’t all look the same but still… Nevertheless, I think it was a really brave move to write a book with such topic and such a title – next to a film titled “A Wedding Date” there are many novels with the same premise as this story and to add something new and original to it couldn’t be too easy. But well, who has said that it will be easy, right? However, I must admit, that the story didn’t take me completely by surprise but don’t get me wrong here, guys – Zara Stoneley’s idea of what could go right or wrong did take the book to another, very high level of entertainment!
There was one thing that bothered me through the whole book – I just didn’t have the feeling that it is a story by Zara Stoneley. It reminded me of so many other rom – coms, which basically is not bad, because of course it had a unique touch to it as well, but Zara Stoneley has already proven many, many times that her stories can be exceptionally brilliant, poignant and funny. And this time I just missed this final touch, this “something” that would make me immediately recognize, without you showing me the author, that it is a story by Ms Stoneley.

Sam was so very easy to like, and she was so relatable with all her problems. She was worrying about her weight all the time and then going out to eat pizza (sounds familiar. Very familiar), about her work, friends and life generally. She was also one of the very best friends in the world and well, she wore her heart on her sleeve. It was a bit sad that she was defining herself through her weight but on the other hand who doesn’t do it, right, so I really did get where she was coming from, and basically, I got our Sam. I warmed to her immediately, and I laughed at her antics, and I liked that she was just so down to earth and believable.
And how lucky you must be to find a guy – moreover, a sexy as hell actor – that would agree to your plan of faking a relationship, right? I think it was that that didn’t sit with so much, and add to that that he was perfect, how convenient was it? Don’t get me wrong, I liked Jake, but knowing that he’s hiding the true reasons while he’s going along with the charade just made me keep the distance a little and probably this is why I just didn’t get fully into the story. On the other hand, I completely understood Sam, oh hell, I’d probably try finding a fake boyfriend myself if I were Sam!
And guys, it wouldn’t be a Zara Stoneley book if there weren’t animals involved! As usual, she introduced some animal characters to us and added a scene or two including horses, and what can I say, they were hugely entertaining, and Harry the dog would give me grey hair.

But altogether, “A Wedding Date” was a funny, uplifting story It ticks all the boxes to be a great summery read – it was a great rom – com with enough drama, comedy and romance, introducing us to vivid, colourful characters and brilliant setting. It was easy, uplifting and light – hearted with plenty of entertaining scenes. The humour and narrative in this book were flowing so effortlessly, unforced and it was a joy to read it. It was full of energy and sunshine and friendship. Yes, I liked other Zara Stoneley’s stories better but it doesn’t mean that “A Wedding Date” wasn’t a good read – because it was and if you haven’t read other Ms Stoneley’s books (not possible I assume) that you can easily start with this one. Highly recommended!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Born in a small village in Staffordshire, Zara Stoneley wanted to be James Herriot, a spy thumbnail_zarastoneley20authorpicor an author when she grew up. Writing novels means she can imagine she is all these things, and more! Zara’s bestselling novels include ‘The Holiday Swap’, ‘Summer with the Country Village Vet’, ‘Blackberry Picking at Jasmine Cottage’ and the popular Tippermere series – ‘Stable Mates’, ‘Country Affairs’ and ‘Country Rivals’. She lives in a Cheshire village with her family, a naughty cockapoo, and a very bossy cat, and loves spending time in sunny Spain.

You can find Zara Stoneley here:

Website: http://www.zarastoneley.com
Twitter: @ZaraStoneley
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ZaraStoneley
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/zarastoneley/

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A Family Recipe by Veronica Henry / #BlogTour + Extract

Hi guys, hope you’re all doing great. Today is my stop on Veronica Henry’s blog tour that’s celebrating her newest release, “A Family Recipe”, and this book is a charming little gem of a novel, full of relatable characters and situations, and really guys, you should all read it. Next to my review I have a teeny tiny foretaste for you – an extract from the story. Enjoy!

 

A Family Recipe by Veronica Henry

 

39337351Publisher: Orion

Publishing Date: 17th May 2018

Source:  Received from the publisher in return for an honest review, thank you!

Number of pages: 400

Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

Synopsis:

The brand-new feel-good story from bestseller Veronica Henry –
a perfect mix of family, friends and delicious food.

What’s the secret ingredient to your happiness?

Laura Griffin is preparing for an empty nest. The thought of Number 11 Lark Hill falling silent – a home usually bustling with noise, people and the fragrant smells of something cooking on the Aga – seems impossible. Laura hopes it will mean more time for herself, and more time with her husband, Dom.

But when an exposed secret shakes their marriage, Laura suddenly feels as though her family is shrinking around her. Feeling lost, she turns to her greatest comfort: her grandmother’s recipe box, a treasured collection dating back to the Second World War. Everyone has always adored Laura’s jams and chutneys, piled their sandwiches high with her pickles . . . Inspired by a bit of the old Blitz spirit, Laura has an idea that gives her a fresh sense of purpose.

Full of fierce determination, Laura starts carving her own path. But even the bravest woman needs the people who love her. And now, they need her in return . . .

Rating: four-stars

Laura is just about to experience an empty nest syndrome – her youngest daughter Willow is leaving for university. The daughter that Laura focused on for so many years, and worried about for so many years when she was fighting against the life threatening asthma. Jasmine, the older daughter, the much more independent and – what’s more important – healthy one, has left home already to study. So Laura is now facing a question, what to do with her life – she didn’t have to work, she only needed to concentrate on her husband and daughters but what now?
Laura’s widowed grandmother has gave up the 11 Lark Hill to Laura and Dom and moved to a smaller house on the same property. Now Laura decides to do up and rent some of the rooms on Airbnb. It’s a great distraction, as there are things happening in Laura’s life that she’s never expected. Is her marriage going to survive? Will Willow stay healthy at the university?

I loved how effortlessly did Veronica Henry weave two – at first sight – different stories set in different times. One of the stories follows young Kanga – Jilly – living through the Blitz in WW2 in Bath, bringing back the memories of the severe destruction, of loss. It was a beautiful story bringing to life Jilly’s friendship with Ivy – the girls supported each other in their most dark moments and stayed friends for ever. Jilly has never forgotten Ivy’s support, the courage she has given her when Jilly discovered she’s pregnant and is going to be a single mum – she knows she wouldn’t be able to do it without Ivy.
The second story is about Laura and her world being shattered by discovering that her husband is having an affair. I admired Laura’s consequence and how firm she was in this situation but to be honest I also started to feel sorry for the poor Dom. Sure, as you make your bed so you must lie on it and I am not justifying him but there came a moment that I really wanted Laura to give him a chance to at least talk to her, and honestly I was surprised that he went for this whole charade, as Laura didn’t want to tell their daughters about them splitting up. I thought, hey, they’re grown up, they’re not children any more and using Willow’s asthma as a pretext can only work for a time. Nevertheless, this situation gave Laura the chance to find herself afresh, and what a better way than to dig out the old family recipes and start making jams and chutneys in her beloved but moody Aga?

The two leading female characters, Jilly and Laura, were brilliantly written by Veronica Henry. It was great to observe Laura standing again on her own two feet, coming to terms with her new life, being so strong and becoming independent. Getting to know Kanga and her history was great, her story was so poignant and heart – breaking, and I loved how determined she was. The relationship between them, between grandmother and granddaughter was unforced, natural and genuine and I loved that Kanga wasn’t one of those grandmothers that meddle in other lives. I also think that the author has managed to capture Laura at the best moment – this character could have gone two ways, as a spoiled, always leaning on somebody housewife, or a strong, determined woman who wants to do something useful with her life, and the author has she pulled it off in the best possible way. Laura was likeable and from the very beginning I warmed to her.

“A Family Recipe” was a lovely, down – to – earth family saga, with likeable and believable characters, warm and inviting. The writing style is so easy to follow, full of depth, emotions and feelings and I immediately felt a part of this story. Veronica Henry has – again – delivered a charming novel about family, friends, love, betrayal and forgiveness in challenging times. I truly enjoyed this book and I can only highly recommend it to you all, guys.

EXTRACT

2

September 2017

Willow had asked for nachos for her farewell supper.

Laura was pathologically incapable of doing

what most normal people would have done: plonked a

saucepan of chilli on the table with a packet of tortilla

chips and got everyone to help themselves.

Instead, by five o’clock the evening before Willow

was due to go to university for the first time, a huge

cauldron on the hot-pink Aga belted out a cloud of steam

scented with cumin and cinnamon and chilli. On the

worktop were bowls filled with grated cheese, soured

cream, guacamole, jalapeños, spicy beans, finely chopped

coriander and chargrilled sweetcorn salsa. Wedges of lime

were waiting to be stuffed into bottles of beer – ‘cerveza’,

Laura teased herself with a Spanish lisp.

She had stopped short of making margaritas because no

one would want to face the next day with a hangover: it

was a six-hour drive to York and it was going to be a difficult

enough day without a thumping tequila headache.

She’d put a row of tiny cactuses in pots down the

middle of the slate-topped island and empty milk

bottles filled with bright pink, yellow and orange gerbera.

A donkey piñata hung from one of the hooks in

the ceiling. She’d managed to refrain from filling it with

sweets. This wasn’t an actual party, after all, just a goodbye

to Willow from her family and her friends, and a few

neighbours, and . . . well, Laura didn’t know exactly who

else, but by eight o’clock the joint would be jumping.

That was how things rolled at Number 11.

It was Laura’s schtick to go to immense trouble, but her

efforts on this occasion were doubled, masking the fact

that tomorrow was the day she had been dreading more

than any other in her life – and there had been a few. She

stood for a moment in the quiet of the kitchen.

This kitchen was her safe place, where she felt love and

gave love. There was always a sense of calm underlying the

chaos. No one else knew how she did it.

‘How do you make it look so effortless? I always have

a nervous breakdown when I’m entertaining. Nothing

looks right, nothing tastes right, and I worry myself to

death.’ Her best friend, Sadie, was eternally mystified by

her entertaining skills.

‘Because I love it? Because I don’t have a career? Because

I don’t look as if I’ve just walked off the pages of Vogue?’

Laura teased.

Sadie owned La, the most fashionable boutique in

Bath, and always looked incredible. ‘But you’re naturally

gorgeous. You don’t have to spend hours making yourself

look ravishing. You just are,’ she complained.

It was true, with her eyes the colour of maple syrup and

her tousled dark mane. Laura, however, thought she was

overweight and unkempt, as it was all she could do to pull

a comb through her hair. She wore skinny jeans, because

her legs were like matchsticks, and had a selection of linen

shirts and sloppy sweaters that covered her embonpoint

and her tummy, about which she was unnecessarily selfconscious.

She didn’t see her own beauty.

‘I’m top heavy,’ she complained. ‘Like a robin – far too

big for my silly little bird legs.’

She felt distinctly unglamorous at this moment, her

hair tied up on top of her head with the elastic band the

postman brought the letters in, a blue and white apron

wrapped round her and a wooden spoon in her hand,

dishevelled and covered in tomato sauce. She was also

finding it desperately hard to stop herself from seeing how

Willow was getting on with her packing.

The back of the car was already loaded up with everything

a new student could possibly want, mostly courtesy

of Ikea to keep the cost down. But Laura had spoiled

Willow with a few things. A luxury mattress topper, essential

for making a strange single bed comfortable. A fleecy

blanket to snuggle up in when it was cold and Willow

was missing home. And some Jo Malone bath oil, because

Laura believed in the power of smell to comfort you.

Willow, however, was a girl who liked to leave everything

to the last minute. Even now her favourite sweatshirt

was rolling around the tumble dryer because she’d only

fetched it from her friend’s house this morning. Laura,

who laid everything out on the spare bed a week before

they went on holiday, found it nerve-racking.

Dom told her not to worry. If Willow forgot anything

she could do without until she came back for the weekend.

‘I probably won’t come back till Christmas,’ Willow

had pointed out. ‘York’s miles and I won’t be able to

afford the train fare.’

Laura’s stomach lurched at the thought of three months

without seeing her daughter, but she squashed the feeling

down. Instead, she sat down at the island and picked up

her Berol pen. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d

written a proper letter, but she wouldn’t be able to say

what she wanted to say without blubbing. As she began to

write, in her best handwriting, she relished the satisfaction

of forming perfect letters, the ink running smoothly across

the paper, the loops and the circles and the curlicues.

Number 11 Lark Hill

Bath

My darling Willow,

Apologies in advance for doing one of those embarrassingly

sentimental mum things. You know how good I am at

those! But I wanted to send you off on your adventure with

something to remind you of home, and I couldn’t think of

anything better than these recipes. They all come from the

little recipe box I keep in the pantry. You and Jasmine have

used them often enough over the years because they still

have your sticky paw prints on them!

The oldest recipes go all the way back to your greatgreat-

grandma – the flapjack and the Yorkshire pudding

come from her (also good for toad-in-the-hole!). The

crumble and the tea loaf come from Kanga – she used to

cook them during the war for the people she had living with

her at Number 11. The avgolemono and the spanakopita

are from my mother, from her travels in Greece . . . I was

not the only thing she brought back!! You can taste the

sunshine in them – they are for when the wind is howling

outside and you want to feel warmed.

The rest are from me: things I have made for you over

the years. Brownies and pancakes and sausage rolls for

sharing. And your favourite suppers: spag bol and chilli

and Thai curry. I know you probably know how to cook

them, but I wanted you to have a keepsake, a little bit

of family history to keep with you. And I know you will

probably live on Cheerios and Cheesy Puffs and Chinese

takeaways, but maybe from time to time you might want

some proper home-made comfort food to share with your

new friends.

I’m so proud of you, darling girl. I know you will fly, and

make the most of this wonderful opportunity.

With lots of love and kisses

Mum xx

Laura looked down at the letter, the inevitable tears blurring

her eyes, then folded the sheet into three. She tucked

it inside the Moleskine notebook she had bought specially.

Each page held a different recipe, carefully copied. It had

taken her over a week to write it, as she’d had to hide it

from everyone. She wanted it to be a surprise, but she was

also a bit self-conscious. Was it too sentimental?

‘My goodness – it smells absolutely wonderful in here.’

‘Kanga! You made me jump.’ Laura put a hand to her

chest. ‘I was miles away.’

Kanga walked through the kitchen, lifting the lid on

the pot and smelling it appreciatively. She looked around

the room.

‘What is this? Fiesta time?’

‘You know me. I can’t help myself.’ Laura grinned, sliding

the notebook into a drawer. ‘I’m sure Willow would

much rather go to the pub with her mates.’

‘She did that last night. Tonight’s for family – she

knows that.’

‘Yes. I want it to be a good send-off, though.’

‘You’re a good mummy.’

‘I had a good role model.’ Laura smiled at her grandmother.

Kanga had brought her up from the age of four,

when Laura’s mum had died. The tiny, thoughtful Laura had

decided that she didn’t want to call her ‘Granny’ any more,

as she was so much more than that, and had christened her

Kanga, after her favourite Winnie the Pooh character.

At ninety-three, Kanga was still more than just a

grandmother – though she looked barely seventy-three.

She was in a pale-pink linen shirt and black trousers and

soft boots, her bright white hair cut close to her jaw, her

dark-grey eyes with their hooded lids missing nothing.

Of course Laura worried she was too thin, but Kanga

had laughed that her appetite had gone with her libido

many years ago, and she was much happier for it. ‘I have

so much more time now I don’t have to think about sex

or food,’ she claimed. Laura wasn’t sure what else there

was to live for.

‘No Dom?’ asked Kanga, taking a seat at the island.

‘He’s got a meeting with the quantity surveyor this

afternoon. So he’s bound to stop off at the Wellie on the

way home.’

The Wellington Arms was Dom’s favourite watering hole,

where he and his property mates cut deals and watched

rugby and sneaked in dirty pints on a Friday afternoon.

Kanga frowned. ‘Even on Willow’s last night?’

‘It’s fine. He’d only drive me mad if he was here. It’s

always much better if he turns up five minutes before

every one else and doesn’t interfere.’ Laura pulled the elastic

band out of her hair, wincing as it caught. ‘Can I leave

you to keep an eye on everything while I get changed?’

Of course.’

‘There’s wine in the fridge.’

In her bedroom, Laura tipped her head upside down

and sprayed dry shampoo onto her roots then ran her

fingers through her curls. There was no time now for a

shower. She pulled off the sweatshirt she’d been cooking

in and rifled through her wardrobe for something

to wear. Sadie was incredibly generous and always gave

Laura things from La for her birthday she would never

dare choose for herself. She pulled out a pearl grey shirt

with pintucks and pearl buttons, pulling it over her head.

It looked perfect – it fitted in all the right places, as expensive

clothes tend to.

‘Hey, Mum.’ Willow sauntered in. Laura’s heart

squeezed. Every time she saw her she wanted to hold

her tight. All her fears whooshed in – a runaway bus,

an insecure balcony, a virulent strain of meningitis . . .

Oh God, had Willow actually had all the jabs she should

have? Laura knew she’d checked a trillion times, but what

if she thought she’d arranged it but had forgotten? The

familiar dry mouth of anxiety hit her and she worked her

tongue to get some saliva.

‘Have you finished packing?’

‘I think so. I’m going to do make-up and stuff in the

morning.’ Willow flopped on the bed.

‘Are you excited?’

‘I don’t know about excited . . .’

Of course. Excited wasn’t cool. ‘Looking forward to it?’

‘It’ll be what it is, won’t it?’

‘Well, I think it’s exciting. York’s lovely. We can explore

tomorrow. Maybe an open-topped bus tour if it’s sunny.’

Willow laughed.

‘What?’ asked Laura, hurt.

‘You’re so funny, Mum.’

‘I’m not trying to be funny.’

‘I know. That’s why you are.’

Willow jumped up and put her arms round her. Laura

breathed her in. Sugary, powdery perfume and Wrigley’s

and the awful incense she insisted on burning in her

bedroom. Not like Jasmine, who was driving back to her

third year at uni in Loughborough by herself the next

morning, who smelled of chlorine and talc and muscle

rub.

Laura had always been grateful for Jasmine’s love of

sport. It had given their life structure at a time when

everything else was chaos. Asthma was nothing if not

disruptive. They had never really known when Willow

might have an attack. There’d been a team of mums ready

to help whenever she did: the netball mafia were fiercely

loyal and supportive, taking Jasmine home for tea or for a

sleepover or dropping her home. Laura could never repay

them as long as she lived, but they didn’t want repaying.

Of course not.

Jasmine could have told her she was going to Timbuktu

on a skateboard and she wouldn’t have worried. They were

close, but in a very different way. When Jaz had gone off

to Loughborough, Laura had treated them both to a day

at the spa in Bath, swimming on the rooftop and sitting

in the Roman steam room and the ice chamber and the

celestial relaxation room; a physical treat for the physical

Jaz, who rarely sat still for a moment and didn’t really

need nurturing.

But Willow . . .

She felt tears fill her eyes. She didn’t want to go down

to the kitchen and share Willow with everyone else. She

wanted to curl up on the bed with her, watch a few

episodes of Gilmore Girls on Netflix, eat a bowlful of

M&M’s, let her daughter fall asleep in her arms, like they

always used to when she was recuperating.

‘Do you think I should take Magic?’ Willow asked.

Magic. The white toy rabbit whose fur had worn away

to nothing, he had been hugged so much. So called because

he was the Magic Rabbit who helped her fall asleep

in a plethora of strange hospitals. Laura felt fearful for

him. What if he got lost or stolen or thrown out of the

window as a student jape?

‘If you want to leave him here, I’ll look after him.’

‘I kind of want him, but I don’t know if you’re supposed

to take your cuddly animals to uni.’ Willow made

a face. ‘Of course Jasmine didn’t, but we all know Jaz

doesn’t need looking after.’

Jasmine’s teddy was as pristine as the day it had been

bought.

‘I’d leave him here,’ said Laura, not wanting to admit

that Magic had been as much a talisman for her as Willow.

‘You will look after yourself, won’t you?’

‘Mum.’ Willow sat up and fixed her mother with a

stern stare. ‘Will you stop worrying? I’m not an idiot.

And it’s been nearly eighteen months.’

‘That doesn’t mean you won’t have an attack. Anything

could trigger one.’

York, thought Laura. If something went wrong, she

couldn’t be there quickly. Even London would have been

nearer. But maybe Willow felt the need to escape. She

knew she’d been guilty of smothering, but what mother

wouldn’t?

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Oh My God, What a Complete Aisling by Emer McLysaght & Sarah Breen

Oh My God, What a Complete Aisling by

Emer McLysaght & Sarah Breen

 

38885462Publisher: Michael Joseph

Publishing Date: 3rd May 2018

Source:  Received from the publisher in return for an honest review, thank you!

Number of pages: 368

Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Hardcover

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

‘There aren’t enough words for how much I love it’ Marian Keyes

Everyone knows an Aisling:

Loves going Out Out, but secretly scared of liquid eyeliner.
Happy to drink the bar dry, but will bring her own coaster if necessary.
Would rather die than miss a cooked hotel breakfast, but can calculate the Points in a Snickers at fifty paces.

Aisling’s the girl with a heart of gold, but a boyfriend who still hasn’t made a peep about their Big Day even after seven years.

But then a disastrous romantic getaway shows Aisling that it’s time to stop waiting around and leave John behind for the bright lights of Dublin. After she’s wailed her way through Adele’s Greatest Hits, that is.

Between glamorous new flatmates, a scandal at work and finding herself in a weird love square, Aisling is ready to take on the big city. So long as she has her umbrella with her.

Rating: five-stars

Apparently there exists a Facebook book called Oh My God What a Complete Aisling and it is so popular that the creators of this group, Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen have decided to write a book about Aisling – and I salute them for doing this, because this novel was one of the warmest, funniest and poignant stories ever – thanks girls for bringing Aisling to my life. I’m not Irish, and have never been to Ireland (yet! I promise!) and the closest I’ve ever been to an Irishman were probably Marian Keyes’s books, and it is thanks to her novels that I truly fell in love with Irish style of life and humour, and yes guys, Aisling was the best that could happen to me right now – I completely adored this book and the characters.

For all the uninitiated, Aisling is apparently a typical Irish country girl who never skips hotel breakfasts (well, she paid for them!), loves her Daddy, going Out and Out Out, and her boyfriend of seven years, John. As far as Aisling is concerned, they will get married soon, build a big house and have children. However, it turns out, John has other ideas. Ouch.
Aisling soon finds herself moving in with her glamorous colleague from work, Sadhbh in Dublin city centre and is being introduced to a very different life – glamorous and hedonistic. With the help of her new – and old – friends Aisling starts to realise what she really wants from her life.

Aisling, and also all of the background characters, were so very well developed and there was so much depth to them that I really did care about them and what happened to them. I kept my fingers crossed for them, I had fun with them at the pubs and bars and I cried with them, and believe me guys, it doesn’t happen often that I feel so much invested in characters’ lives, so it’s a sign of truly brilliant characters. Aisling’s personality and life approach was brilliantly captured and the authors brought her so easily to life!
I really liked the friendship between Aisling and Sadhbh and Elaine. I must admit that I was all the time worrying the girls want to make fun out of her, that there is something very bad going to happen but it turned out I was wrong and it was a real friendship, no matter what, through thick and thin. They were always there for the fragile Aisling, they helped her to face family dramas and crises, they wiped away the tears as she struggled to get over John. I can’t, to be totally honest, understand some of the reviews saying the characters in this book were under – developed because in my opinion they were brilliantly drawn and Aisling, even though not changing, was still broadening her horizons. And well, I never wanted her to change – she was just my kind of a girl and well, some of her antics were very familiar to me. Oh yes! What I absolutely adored was her family and her relationship with her parents – it made me laugh out loud and it made me cry crocodile tears, it was beautifully written and I simply loved it. She was so open and friendly and I loved the way she embraced her new friendships and how – maybe not exactly voluntarily and with some scepticism – she danced to techno music and went on a Berlin city break.

The only thing that bothered me a little was the various number of Irish words, phrases and references but it was only a minor blip and oh well, if I was so bothered than I could look it up, right.

“Oh My God, What a Complete Aisling” was completely my kind of read, blending humour with poignant moments, light and fluffy but also with some hidden messages, with this brilliant, clever Irish humour. I absolutely loved that there was no meanness in this story and that people took Aisling as she was – because why shouldn’t they? It was affectionate and with a grain of salt, kind, funny, genuine and honest, and with character that I think we can all relate to on some level. Under the cover – up of light – heartedness there was much, much more to this story, it was full of depth and emotions and be prepared to drop a tear or two as well. Sharply observed, tackling so many topics that are close to our own hearts – I simply loved it and can’t recommend it highly enough!

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