The Christmas Lights by Karen Swan

The Christmas Lights by Karen Swan

 

 

41589390Publisher: Pan

Publishing Date: 1st November 2018

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 480

Genre: General Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book:  Paperback

 

 

Synopsis:

Set on the scenic fjords of Norway, The Christmas Lights by bestselling author Karen Swan is a moving Christmas tale of love and heartbreak.

December 2018, and free-spirited Influencers Bo Loxley and her partner Zac are living a life of wanderlust, travelling the globe and sharing their adventures with their millions of fans. Booked to spend Christmas in the Norwegian fjords, they set up home in a remote farm owned by enigmatic mountain guide Anders and his fierce grandmother Signy. Surrounded by snowy peaks and frozen falls, everything should be perfect. But the camera can lie and with every new post, the ‘perfect’ life Zac and Bo are portraying is diverging from the truth. Something Bo can’t explain is wrong at the very heart of their lives and Anders is the only person who’ll listen.

June 1936, and fourteen-year old Signy is sent with her sister and village friends to the summer pastures to work as milkmaids, protecting the herd that will sustain the farm through the long, winter months. But miles from home and away from the safety of their families, threat begins to lurk in friendly faces . . .

The mountains keep secrets – Signy knows this better than anyone – and as Bo’s life begins to spiral she is forced, like the old woman before her, to question who is friend and who is foe.

Rating: five-stars

“The Christmas Lights”, set in the beautiful and raw Norway, introduces us to a bunch of different characters. Bo and Zac are living the dream life, being the Wanderlusters who share their adventures on Instagram with their 9 + million followers. There is also Lenny, their photographer and manager who organizes all the trips and schedules. After their recent trip to Samoa they are travelling to the remote shelf farm in Norway to spend Christmas there. The owner of the farm is Signy – an older woman who’s going to change the lives of the threesome.

As usual, this book also starts with a chapter set in the past that ends with a cliffhanger and the story slowly unfolds, brilliantly and cleverly intertwined with this of Bo and Zac’s. This was the story of Signy, Anders’s grandmother, the owner of the shelf farm where our trio is staying. Back in 1936, Signy has experienced unforgettable summer when she worked with other girls as milkmaids, away from their families, there where the pastures were the greenest. I loved how the author put us up to different kinds of danger with those two subplots, and I must say that both of them had me on my tenterhooks.

I’ve mentioned it thousand times already, and I’ll repeat myself, that Karen Swan is my auto – buy author. What I absolutely adore in her books is the fact that her characters are so diverse, so different to each other, and their jobs are always unusual. This time Bo and Zac turned their lifestyles into job, they’re already a brand with over 9 million followers on Instagram. They walk the earth together with their photographer and their lives look so colourful, inspirational and perfect on photos, as they visit places that you won’t find on the tourist maps, spending at least a month or longer at their chosen place, to get the feeling of it, to turn into locals, as they don’t want to be perceived as the usual tourists. No, they’re Wanderlusters and they want to experience authenticity. But – are their lives really so perfect? Without cracks? The author has so gently hinted that Bo’s life is getting out of her control, and yes, I immediately fell for Bo, I liked her and didn’t want anything bad happen to her. The way she realises there is so much more to life than followers and sponsors makes her character so much more believable. And also, what made me like her even more is the fact that I have a feeling that at the end she’s chosen the right things for her. It hurt to see that she can’t trust anybody, how she tried to be heard by those closest to her and how she was left alone in all of this. That is, alone but for Anders, but it turns out that he also has a terrible secret – is there a single person that Bo can trust, who would understand her?

It was a read with a rather slow pace but there was not a single moment that it felt flat or uninteresting for me. On the other hand, I enjoyed the descriptions of the setting, the harsh nature of Norway, so raw and virginal and beautiful – yes, Karen Swan is the queen of choosing the most beautiful settings for her novels, and what I love is the fact that they’re not fictional places. They’re secluded, solitary but real and simply gorgeous. Another bonus is that she always adds truly interesting facts about those places and I couldn’t help but googled shelf farms – they’re brilliant. The setting is just fantastic and the author eloquently and vividly brings all the places she writes about to life. I’ve read some books set in Norway, and also some describing the Northern Lights but “The Christmas Lights” overdoes them all with its descriptions, the gorgeous, wild and austere nature of Norway.

I, however, immediately guess the “who”. For me it was obvious and there was no other option, even if the author has tried a little to put wool over our eyes at the end, trying to complicate things a little, to point us in other directions, but this is the one thing that she didn’t manage. Was it disappointment? To be honest, no. Not at all.

Of course we can’t forget the big elephant in the room – Karen Swan writes about the problems and dangers of living through social media, and I liked the way she has tackled this issue. We have Zac and Lenny, who live only through the numbers of followers and nothing is impossible for them, no matter how dangerous it is. Then we have Bo, whose eyes start to open and she starts to notice the dangers and issues of being in the centre of attention. And we have Anders, whose idea of living is totally different. Yes, Zac and Lenny come across a little obsessed and shallow, at least for me, as I do realise that the grass is not always greener on the other side and there are limits for what you can do to increase the number of your followers and your sponsors.

“The Christmas Lights” was a story full of action, hiking, gorgeous settings and characters full of personality – characters that are annoying, that have their flaws and secrets which only makes them much more interesting and believable. The author has also brought closer the Norwegian history and its present, traditions, habits, the language, food and drink. There was intrigue, danger and it was festive enough to get in the spirit of Christmas, this all brought to life through Karen Swan’s vivid, alluring and engaging writing style. A novel about relationships, loss, grief, love and adventures, living on the edge, full of heartbreak and hope. It’s much more than about finding your own strength, it shows that everything is possible, and it had me totally and completely hooked. Highly recommended!

 

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The Greek Escape by Karen Swan

The Greek Escape by Karen Swan

 

38657977Publisher: Pan Macmillan

Publishing Date: 12th July 2018

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

Number of pages: 432

Genre: General Fiction

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

A scorching summer novel, set on a lush Greek island, The Greek Escape by bestselling author Karen Swan, is the perfect getaway for fans of Victoria Hislop and Santa Montefiore.

Before every new beginning, there must be an ending .

Running from heartbreak, Chloe Marston leaves her old life in London for a fresh start in New York. Working at a luxury concierge company, she makes other people’s lives run perfectly, even if her own has ground to a halt. But a terrible accident forces her to step into a new role, up close and personal with the company’s most esteemed and powerful clients. Charismatic Joe Lincoln is one of them and his every wish is her command, so when he asks her to find him a secluded holiday home in the Greek Islands, she sets about sourcing the perfect retreat. But when Tom, her ex, unexpectedly shows up in Manhattan and the stability of her new life is thrown off-balance again, she jumps at the chance to help Joe inspect the holiday house; escaping to Greece will give her the time and space to decide where her future truly lies. Tom is the man she has loved for so long but he has hurt her before—can she give him another chance? And as she draws closer to Joe, does she even want to? As magnetic as he is mysterious, there’s an undeniable chemistry between them that she can’t resist. But whatever her heart is telling her, she’s in over her head—another client’s wife has mysteriously disappeared and seriously allegations about Joe threaten more than just her happiness. Who can she trust? And will Chloe uncover the truth in time?

Rating: five-stars

“The Greek Escape” is another glamorous, provocative and captivating novel by Karen Swan. It introduces us to Chloe Marston – who after a painful heart – break relocates from London to New York. She works for a luxury concierge company, granting wishes and every whim of their clients. After an accident that happened to one of her colleagues, Chloe must step up and take over Poppy’s clients. One of them is Joe Lincoln, whose wish is for Chloe to find him a hideaway holiday cottage in Greece.
In the meantime, Chloe’s ex, Tom, appears again on the scenes, messing with her and her life again. She’s torn and absolutely doesn’t know what to do – try her luck again with Tom and ignore this increasing chemistry between her and Joe? Joe, who also brings some complications?

Karen Swan’s writing style is engaging, rich in descriptions and eloquent, and there is always a word or two that I’ve never heard before, well, we learn the whole life, right. The setting she’s chosen for “The Greek Escape” is maybe not as exotic and unusual as in some of her previous books, but the way she describes New York and Greece is absolutely refreshing and simply gorgeous and she easily brings the places to life. She also adds a gem or two of a place that you’ll never read about in other books and it’s like discovering them together with the characters.

Who, by the way, are brilliant. They’re ambitious but not in a negative way – well, some of them are – quirky, clever and inquisitive. Chloe was immediately likeable – she was normal and she knew where her priorities should be, although she made me feel really desperate when it came to her love life. However, this hesitation and uncertainty only made her feel much more realistic and closer to life, and really, I truly cared about her and there were moments that I was really scared about her.
Chloe is our main character and narrator, however every now and then we get chapters told from another character’s point of view – Elodie. Yes, I did wonder how she’s connected with Chloe, if they’re connected at all and how those subplots align, however it didn’t take long to guess and to put the puzzles together. There was one missing piece still but it was all neatly and clearly wrapped up at the end, which is simply great, as I really like to know why, who, when and what.

The plot of “The Greek Escape” is so unique! Already the idea of the company Chloe works for was so refreshing, different and intriguing and I felt myself sucked into the descriptions of the things and events they organize for their clients, in their worlds where the word “no” didn’t exist. This story was evocative and packed with everything I’ve expected from the author and more: humour and drama, action, murder, scandals, corruption and of course extraordinary romances.

What I so adore in Karen Swan’s books is the way she so effortlessly mixes glamour, the world of prominent and exotic places with the brilliant, immediately likeable and down – to – earth characters. Her stories, and “The Greek Escape” as well, are multi – layered and complex and full of twists and turns and there is always an element of mystery in them, which I honestly love. It was refreshing and sophisticated and I didn’t want to put it down. And I also didn’t want it to end! Highly recommended!

The Christmas Secret by Karen Swan

The Christmas Secret by Karen Swan

 

34734391Publisher: Pan

Publishing Date: 2nd November 2017

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

Number of pages: 496

Genre:  Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

Set on the beautiful island of Islay, The Christmas Secret is a gripping story filled with emotion from Karen Swan, author of Christmas Under the Stars

Alex Hyde is the leaders’ leader. An executive coach par excellence, she’s the person the Great and the Good turn to when the pressure gets too much; she can change the way they think, how they operate, she can turn around the very fortunes of their companies.

Her waiting list is months’ long, but even she can’t turn down the unorthodox but highly lucrative crisis call that comes her way a few weeks before Christmas, regarding the troublesome – and troubled – head of an esteemed whisky company in Scotland: Lochlan Farquhar, CEO of Kentallen Distilleries, is a maverick, an enigma and a renegade, and Alex needs to get inside his head before he brings the company to its knees.

It should be business as usual. She can do this in her sleep. Only, when she gets to the remote island of Islay, with the winter snows falling, Alex finds herself out of her comfort zone. For once, she’s not in control – Lochlan, though darkly charismatic, is unpredictable and destructive, her usual methods gaining no traction with him – and with Christmas and her deadline fast approaching, she must win his trust and find a way to close on this deal.

But as she pulls ever closer to him, boundaries become blurred, loyalties loosen and Alex finds herself faced with an impossible choice as she realizes nothing and no-one is as they first seemed.

 
Rating: five-stars

 

I love Karen Swan’s books, and I can’t imagine Christmas without this author’s new novel, and here it is – “The Christmas Secret”, and it’s another winner! It is actually really hard to put into words how much I adore Ms Swan’s books, this one included, they are always so complex, full of secrets, twists and turns, filled with multi – faceted brilliant characters and you can always be sure that the author is going to deliver an utterly compelling story that is only getting better with every page turned.

There is not a single thing that I didn’t like about this book, guys, so probably I should just finish my review right here, right now telling you that it was a brilliant read, go and buy it and you don’t even have to thank me for the recommendation. But I wouldn’t be myself if I did this, so be prepared for some gushing. Let’s start with the characters. They were my favourite kind of characters. They felt like real people and I didn’t always agree with their choices and decisions but it didn’t mean that they were wrong. Sure, sometimes they were but it only made them more human in their eyes. Both our main characters, Alex Hyde and Lochlan Farqhuar, had better and worse days, had tempers, made mistakes and I adored it in them – it seemed so realistic and also it didn’t leave me indifferent about them and their futures. I wanted to slap them sometimes, to shake them or to pat them on their shoulder. I love how Karen Swan creates her characters, they are not immediately likeable, you must sometimes get used to some of them but it’s great that they’re not straightforward, that they have complex and complicated personalities. She gives us time to get to know Alex and Lochie, and when we think we know all about them, she starts then to introduce us to their past and it is like, oh wow, there is so much more to them than I thought! The motions of those two were so brilliantly captured, they were full of secrets and surprises and I loved following them on their journey. We of course can’t forget the background characters, which – no matter if they entered one or two or three scenes – were created with a lot of love to details, had their own personalities and added tons to the whole story.

Setting. Karen Swan is a queen of setting her novels in the most beautiful locations. I wouldn’t say that they are the most unusual ones because she also takes us to Paris or Rome for example, but no matter where we find ourselves, and this time on small and remote island of Islay, west coast of Scotland, she brings all the settings to life and offers us the most gorgeous views and descriptions. The scenery of this Scottish island is breathtakingly beautiful, and I loved how realistic the descriptions were, how they highlighted how dependent the islanders were on the weather, how harsh could it be for them. But also the distillery was a part of the setting, and well, you could ask how much can you write about whisky, but believe me, you can, or Karen Swan can – it was incredibly interesting to find out about the steps of making whisky. The way the distillery was the heart of the community, how much depended on it was brilliantly brought to life.

Plot. Absolutely brilliant! I know that when I read Karen Swan’s book I am for surprises, twists and turns that can change everything dramatically. I love how her books, and also “The Christmas Secret”, are like puzzles, with the missing elements slowly, in the right pace, falling into places. This time one of the background subplots was a sinking of one of the liners transporting American troops to Europe during the First World War, that was torpedoed by the Germans, and so Alex’s story intertwined with chapters full of retrospections. At first glance those stories has nothing in common, but slowly you start to see the whole picture, and you see in what way the stories are connected.

Writing style. Karen Swan knows her way with the words and her writing style is simply gorgeous, guys. She knows perfectly well how to write a complex, deep book. She touches upon so many issues in “The Christmas Secret” but no matter what it is she writes about it’s not only brilliantly researched but it’s also brought to us in the most beautiful, rich descriptions and you immediately feel like part of the story.

“The Christmas Secret” was a gorgeous story about life on a small island and its community, about love, friendship, forgiveness, family bonds and – let’s not forget it – whisky. It was an impressive piece of fiction. It was filled with emotions and feelings, hot and cold, it was honest and genuine and it was also a great love story, both in the present and the past. I really loved every single page of this book, and I loved how Karen Swan made me think (as usual!) that I knew what’s going to happen and then dropping a surprise or two on my not expecting it self – I love this, when the plot is unpredictable, you can’t see through it, when there are moments that you don’t expect, and this is this kind of plot – you know, the one with the “BAM” or “Yesss!” moments. This is another winner from this author and I highly recommend this book to you – Karen Swan at her best, and there really wouldn’t be Christmas without a new Karen Swan!

The Rome Affair by Karen Swan

The Rome Affair by Karen Swan

34513672Publisher: Pan

Publishing Date: 13th July 2017

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

Number of pages: 480

Genre:  Women’s Fiction, Literature/Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

Synopsis:

The glamorous capital city of Italy is brought to startling life in The Rome Affair, a compelling summer novel by Karen Swan.

1974 and Elena Damiani lives a gilded life. Born to wealth and a noted beauty, no door is closed to her, no man can resist her. At twenty-six, she is already onto her third husband when she meets her love match. But he is the one man she can never have, and all the beauty and money in the world can’t change it.

2017 and Francesca Hackett is living la dolce vita in Rome, leading tourist groups around the Eternal City and forgetting the ghosts she left behind in London. When she finds a stolen designer handbag in her dustbin and returns it, she is brought into the orbit of her grand neighbour who lives across the piazza – famed socialite Viscontessa Elena dei Damiani Pignatelli della Mirandola. Though the purse is stolen, Elena greets the return of the bag with exultation for it contains an unopened letter written by her husband on his deathbed, twelve years earlier.

Mutually intrigued by each other, the two women agree to collaborate on a project, with Cesca interviewing Elena for her memoirs. As summer unfurls, Elena tells her sensational stories, leaving Cesca in her thrall. But when a priceless diamond ring found in an ancient tunnel below the city streets is ascribed to Elena, Cesca begins to suspect a shocking secret at the heart of Elena’s life.

Rating: five-stars

Karen Swan is one of the authors from my auto – buy list. I love all of her books and she always surprises me with the plot, the storyline and the setting, easily transporting me to the fictional world of the characters and getting me immersed in her multi – layered novels. And also this book, “The Rome Affair”, was so exceptionally well done, and the way it was unravelling all the secrets had me hooked. Guys, I think this book would make an excellent movie! I’d say that it was a character driven story. There were surprises on the way, and secrets, some of them really shocking but to be totally honest there were maybe two or three real twists, and all of them actually at the end of the book, so the whole long story was actually a great build – up to a brilliant, explosive ending, and while usually such constructed story would drag on, “The Rome Affair” was a complex, curvy, totally brilliant book that I fell in love with. And the end was so fantastic that I could cry. Really. And I also loved how many meanings the title of this book – The Rome Affair – had.

The characters are more than brilliant. They are unforgettably complex, multi – layered, all of them experienced so much in their lives, and it was such a great thing to see all the layers slowly unpeeling, our eyes getting bigger and bigger not totally believing what they see. The author has – again – so easily transported me to the characters’ worlds and I quickly found myself immersed in their lives, feelings, emotions and history. Elena, thrice married, is a proud, enigmatic woman. The story shows us her past, both happy and unhappy and how she was actually made to love. Francesca is confident, lovely and you just want to have such a girl in your circle of closest friends. A barrister from London, but fleeing from her past and now living in Rome, working as a tour guide – and she’s the one who’s going to write Elena’s memories. You could trust Cesca, no matter what she was always telling the truth. She had principles and she wasn’t afraid to put her foot down when things started to go out of a hand. They are the two main characters in this story, accompanied by some really great background characters that won’t want to leave your head, even days after you’ve finished reading the book.

The story flips between past and present, between lies and truth and I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed the two versions of Laney’s life! This juxtaposing of Elena’s “real” life and the version she gave to Cesca worked so, so well and I couldn’t wait for the moment that she’s going to discover the truth – because I hoped that she will do. We were in much better and comfortable position than Cesca as we were able to quickly establish that there are many layers to the Principessa and so many layers to her life. And so we follow Laney – also known as the luckiest girl in America – but was she really? – starting when she’s 16 years old in the 1960s, then following her to California and the NYC in the 1970s and finally to Rome in 1980s. We accompany her in her journey through life, as young bride, wife, divorcee, widow… Elena is not a straight – forward character. At the beginning you can’t help but fell for this poor, rich girl schema but then, gradually, you start to think if she’s really worth your feelings, if it’s the real face she’s showing to the world – and I loved this complexity! And then there comes the end and you change your mind again, seeing that she was a woman with passion, a woman who loved unconditionally. There were so many faces to Laney, guys, and it was thrilling and fascinating. To be honest, I couldn’t wait for the story to get us back to Laney’s story again, it was engrossing and so colourful, and while I loved Cesca, Elena’s life was truly much more fascinating – even with Cesca having her own secrets! However, after those secrets being so highlighted in the story, with Cesca mentioning them all over again you could expect it is going to be a huge part of the book, or be a very significant point of the story – but the thing is, it wasn’t. It didn’t change anything. It maybe helped to understand Cesca this little bit more. But still, it brilliantly work altogether with the whole plot.

No one can probably do a setting like Karen Swan do. I loved the setting of this book – the very idyllic city of Rome, with restaurants, piazzas, with the forgotten places and glamorous, majestic palaces with 1000 rooms. It was like a much better version of a travel guide, introducing us to Rome’s culture, traditions, secret places, food and people.

It was simply an addictive read, even though it was not the easiest one – you know how sometimes you just go with the flow and everything is so light – hearted and easy? Well, it was a little different with this book and I can put my finger on why it was like this, but it also doesn’t mean that I couldn’t get into this story – I could, however I had to concentrate more on this beautiful, expressive and very vivid prose – I loved the writing style. It is a slow burner, this book, and the beginning feels a little slow, when the author introduces us to the characters and their history, but I also appreciate the fact she took her time to do so and gave us the opportunity to get to know every single smallest detail of their lives. Altogether, “The Rome Affair” was incredibly clever and absorbing novel about the lengths one will go for unconditional love, about sorrows, grief and appearances, showing us that often behind the glamour, designer clothes and jewels there is loneliness, lies, scandals and tragedy. The mystery there was so clever and so intriguing, with plenty of lies and secrets, misunderstandings, glamour, glitter, mystery and intrigue, written in incredibly clear way – there was not a single moment that I felt confused, it was so easy to keep track of all the things. Brilliant and well – developed, this book took me on a great roller – coaster ride into emotionally charged past and present. A gorgeous story full of dolce vita and romance about passion, abuse, loss, heartbreak and hope. A must – have page – turner! Highly recommended!

Christmas Under the Stars by Karen Swan

Christmas Under the Stars by Karen Swan

 

31937542Publisher: Pan

Publishing Date: 3rd November 2016

Source:  Copy provided by the publisher in return for an honest review, thank you!

Number of pages: 512

Genre: Literature/Fiction (Adult), Women’s Literature

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

Synopsis:

A gripping, festive novel, Christmas Under the Stars by Karen Swan reveals the devastating power of secrets.

Worlds apart. A love without limit.

In the snow-topped mountains of the Canadian Rockies, Meg and Mitch are living their dream. Just weeks away from their wedding, they work and play with Tuck and Lucy, their closest and oldest friends. Meg and Lucy are as close as sisters – much to Meg’s sister’s dismay – and Tuck and Mitch have successfully turned their passion for snowboarding into a booming business.

But when a polar storm hits, tragedy strikes. Alone in the tiny mountain log cabin she shares with Mitch, Meg desperately tries to radio for help – and it comes from the most unexpected quarter, a lone voice across the airwaves that sees what she cannot.

As the snow melts and they try to live with their loss, the friendship Meg thought was forever is buckled by tensions, rivalries and devastating secrets. Nothing is as she thought and only her radio contact understands what it is to be truly alone. As they share confidences in the dark, witnessed only by the stars, Meg feels her future begin to pull away from her past and is forced to consider a strange truth – is it her friends who are the strangers? And a stranger who really knows her best?

 Rating: 5/5

“Christmas Under the Stars” is the winter offer from Karen Swan, as she’s now writing two books a year. Having incredibly enjoyed “The Paris’ Secret” I was impatiently waiting for the new release, as the author is a very talented story – teller, and her books are so different to each other, so you can never tell where the Karen is going to take you this time.

“Christmas Under the Stars” is set in Canada, in Bannf in Alberta, and I couldn’t imagine a better setting for this book. Personally I am fascinated by this country, and I would do anything to be able to go and visit it some time, and after reading the book even more so. Karen Swan’s writing makes is crystal clear that she also loves Canada – the descriptions are very detailed, minutiae, and they don’t leave a lot to be imagined, as the author covers every aspect. While sometimes it doesn’t work, this time I was absolutely stunned with all the views and could easily see them in my mind – they were so vivid and the author has so easily brought all the places to life. I can’t say that I had my favourite place as I myself am kind of an outdoor girl and love to spend my time in the nature, so really, all the places in the story were as if they were created especially for me and I truly appreciated the beauty of the wilderness. But! Karen Swan has also mentioned how much risk and danger such a wilderness can bring, and believe me, even the encounter with the bear sounded so realistic that I kept looking over my shoulder when I went for a walk in the wood later on, after reading the scene. The gorgeous and cosy mountain log cabin that Meg and Mitch were living in was my idea of heaven, though there were moments that it felt particularly remote and off the beaten track, so am not sure if I could live there constantly, alone.

The book was so complex and it touched upon so many issues! I admit, at the beginning, and it was a relatively long beginning, I was starting to feel panic, as it took a lot of time before the story gained some speed and focused on the significant things. Significant for the plot! I was like, oh man, what’s happening? Why is it so dragging on? Where is the story? It was probably also because I had some problems with the characters. While I warmed to Meg immediately, I wasn’t so sure about her fiancé Mitch. From this little what we were able to get about him he came across as a cold, somehow indifferent and always irritated guy, who put everything over Meg, even though they were supposed to get married in a week. Yes, throughout the story there came a picture of a passionate, talented young man and it was eventually explained why he behaved this way but I still couldn’t shake off my initial feelings to him. Then we had Lucy and Tuck, best friends of Meg and Mitch. Tuck was an absolutely unlikeable character for me, and I really, truly felt for Lucy – however Lucy had her moments as well. Tuck seemed so very childish to me, and I hated that when he spoke with people that the second word he said was “man” – no idea why but it irritated me incredibly. In my eyes he was a guy who was interested in anything but his own family, a guy who always tried to keep up with his best friend and almost always failed. As I don’t want to spoil the read to you I won’t say a word more but, as the story is full of surprises, twists and turns, keep your eyes peeled and let me know what your final thought about Tuck were. Back to Lucy – as I have already mentioned she had her moments when I truly despised her and didn’t understand where she was coming from – her jealousy, her determination to belittle Meg, the way she was sure she can judge her best friend – I just couldn’t get this girl, to be honest, and as it turned out, I was right not to trust her. While Meg… Well, I loved Meg. She had such a complicated past and she had to fight for herself, and yet she felt so normal and down – to – earth and I totally fell for her. Sure, she made mistakes, she was stubborn sometimes, but she was loyal, which you couldn’t say about Lucy foe example, she had her heart in the right place and I so wanted that life will stop throwing obstacles at her all the time.
The only male character that I loved from the very beginning was Jonas. He had so much distance to himself and all the things, he’s seen things just like they really were and he was just so, so clever, but not too patronizing. And his job was so, so cool, I don’t want to spoil it for you so not going to tell you what it was he was doing, but it was the first hero in my books doing this! I loved the conversations and then email exchange between him and Meg, and their jokes were really bad, but they made me laugh so much nonetheless. Jonas was so genuine in what he did and said and I so wanted him to stay significant in this story – he so deserved it!
But likes and dislikes away, the characters were perfectly drawn. They were complex and full of emotions and feelings personalities. They all felt so solid, you know, like real people. They made mistakes, they lied, they had secrets, they drunk too much, they behaved unreasonably, they jumped to conclusions, they loved and all of this, and much, much more, was so brilliantly captured by the author in their personalities. I felt like I knew all of them, to be honest, like I was together with them on the pages of this book, going with them on this very curvy journey.

The first half of the story – at least this is my feeling – focused more on Canada itself, on the landscape and yes, it worried me a little, but the second part, and especially the last quarter of the book were bloody brilliant. When the action unwound, it didn’t stop for a single second and I found the book unputdownable. Yes, we can say that the end, in comparison to the rest of this rather long story, was too rushed and too quick, but to be totally honest, I didn’t care about it – it was so fantastic and brilliant ending to the story that I won’t say a single bad word about it.

And guys, how gorgeous, clever and unique the idea of introducing us to a character that doesn’t even is on the Earth, was! The whole universe, NASA, rockets was never my thing, but together with Meg and Ronnie I hold my breath when the space ship (or is it something different???) was entering the Earth again, and even the details about life out of space, about gravity and how it is to be on the firm ground again had me totally hooked. Stars I always loved to watch, and I can’t help but admire the Milky Way over my own roof when I only have a chance.

So yes, it was a slow burner but as soon as it gained speed, it was like the avalanche in the story – fast, twisty and taking you with it on the journey. One of the secrets I guessed relatively quickly but the outcome has totally surprised me, and the other twists were absolutely unexpected for me – it is really something that Karen Swan is a champion of doing in her books: she’s a specialist of dropping a totally unexpected bomb on your totally unexpecting head, and I love this feeling of surprise, but also of the pieces of the puzzle falling into a place, and always in these moments I just want to punch the air and shout Yessssss! “Christmas Under the Stars” is a gorgeous, beautiful story about love and hate, secrets, lies, friendship, sisterhood, new beginnings and second chances. It’s a story that kept me awake long after the bed time, and it’s a story that won’t leave my head for long. Complex, cleverly plotted, with unforgettable characters, beautiful setting in Canadian Rockies, with views that were taking your breath away, adventures, twists and turns, it is a must read this winter! Another winner from Karen Swan, this author always delivers and never disappoints! Highly, highly recommended!

The Paris Secret by Karen Swan

The Paris Secret

by Karen Swan

 

Publisher: Pan Macmillan

Publishing Date: 14th July 2015

Source:  Copy provided by the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 416

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

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 Synopsis:

Somewhere along the cobbled streets of Paris, an apartment lies thick with dust and secrets: full of priceless artworks hidden away for decades.

High-flying Fine Art Agent Flora from London, more comfortable with the tension of a million-pound auction than a cosy candlelit dinner for two, is called in to asses these suddenly discovered treasures. As an expert in her field, she must trace the history of each painting and just who has concealed them for so long.

Thrown in amongst the glamorous Vermeil family as they move between Paris and Antibes, Flora begins to discover that things aren’t all that they seem, while back at home her own family is recoiling from a seismic shock. The terse and brooding Xavier Vermeil seems intent on forcing Flora out of his family’s affairs – but just what is he hiding?

Rating: 5/5

 

I am always waiting impatiently for Karen Swan’s new novel, no matter if it is a summer or winter release. I can be sure that Ms Swan is going to deliver a fantastic, wonderfully plotted, full of gorgeous places and brilliantly drawn characters story. This time Karen Swan let herself be inspired by a discovery of a Parisian apartment several years ago, which I didn’t know to be honest, I learnt this when reading the book already, but I think it was a great idea – just imagine, apartment left behind, looking the same as on the day when its owner departed, its treasures and secrets and hidden past – and about this all Karen Swan writes in her new novel, not forgetting about her distinctive add of glamour.

To be absolutely honest I am not so into art. Sure, I know a few artists and I know that Renoir is a big name but art was never my things. However, not for a single moment was I afraid that the story is going to bore me with the descriptions of paintings or sculptures – because Karen Swan knew exactly how much is too much and really, I couldn’t have enough of the descriptions of the lost art – it was interesting, it was hooking and it was new to me. And – surprise, surprise – they were one my most favourite passages in the book. But those were not only the descriptions of the art that were so captivating, oh no. Karen Swan, as usually, writes so vividly about the places and the settings and I could easily imagine everything, see it in my mind, beginning with the lost apartment, through the places Flora visits and ending with Gertie the ostrich. Yes :) Because of course, as usual, Karen Swan takes us on a journey around the world. Together with Flora we travel to the most glamorous places of Paris, London, Vienna and Antibes and I really enjoyed it. What I enjoyed even more is that in all the places there is not only glamour and glitz but also secrets and hidden pasts, and ones that I couldn’t dream about – the author has really taken me by surprise with each secret revealed. When I was a little over the half of the book one of the secrets and puzzles has been solved, and it was brilliant, I’d never guess it for myself, and I didn’t even try to be honest, but I also thought, wow, and what is the second half of the book going to be about when this thread is closed? But then I turned the page and boom, the author has hit me with a twist that I would never in a million years see coming. And it was like this with mostly the whole book – there were things and events happening that I didn’t see coming.

All of the characters are so well – rounded and each of them is given their own personality by the author. Some of them are more likeable, some of them less but all their life stories are relatable to and realistic. Flora is a lovely character. Strong, independent and she knows what she wants, and her passion to her job was fantastic. And because of this passion she is also a great detective! She has really incredible skills and she knows where to dig to find information she needs, hats off girl, I’d never be able to unearth such things. She is also very caring and she loves her family and there are really many layers to her but altogether I think you can’t not like her. Flora is a fine art adviser and for her job she travels around the world to procure very expensive paintings (like, you know, Picasso or Renoir) for her clients. The finding of the hidden apartment was from the beginning not her usual job but then she finds herself roped into a secret that also concern the paintings and other valuable artefacts found in the apartment but also it concerns the family the apartment belongs to. And Flora is not the one that lets the secret stay undercover, even if the secret in question is really a big one.

What didn’t work so much for me was the romance element in this story, however I think I know what the author wanted to achieve. It was as if the first part of the book focused much more on the art and the second part was more on Flora’s life and this budding romance. It was there but it was as if it wasn’t in the story, if you follow me :) Nevertheless, even with the few scenes, the chemistry and sparkles between Flora and Xavier were incredible, I think it was the best captured blossoming relationship ever written! Well, okay, I’d prefer a little different ending, hoping Flora would stay hard but it’s only me. There were so many significant events happening in the story but the author doesn’t explain everything at once. Oh no. She lets the tension to built and there were moments that I’ve already forgotten about something or moments that I was afraid the author has forgotten about something. But no worries, guys, all the secrets are revealed, all the questions are answered – in their own time. It doesn’t mean that the story drags or that I was struggling to go through it, of course not, it is so full of great things that I didn’t see coming and I didn’t notice the time passing, so immersed was I in the reading, and I enjoyed every single page of this book. It is this kind of book that you think you have all figured but then another curve ball comes and hits you on the head. There is really much more to it that meets the eye and I truly recommend this book. Karen Swan creates stories that keep me hooked in their grips, and it was the same with „The Paris Secrets”. I absolutely loved the writing style and the story itself – it was intriguing, hooking and original, it felt like a breath of fresh air. Karen Swan tells the story so effortlessly and I really felt like a part of the characters’ world. Sure, there were some moments that the plot seemed a little too far – fetched and the sudden change in Xavier’s sister Natascha towards Flora was too sudden and too obvious, but altogether, I adored this story. I immersed myself in the world of art, glamour and glitz, in the world of secrets and mysteries and I think this is the perfect summer read.

Christmas on Primrose Hill by Karen Swan / Book Review

Christmas on Primrose Hill by Karen Swan

26019502

Publisher: Pan
Publishing Date: 5th November 2015
Source: Copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
Genre: Women’s Fiction, Literature/Fiction (Adult)

Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

Synopsis:
Christmas on Primrose Hill is a romantic Christmas tale from the author of Christmas at Tiffany’s, Karen Swan.

On Primrose Hill . . .

Twinkling lights brighten London’s Primrose Hill as Christmas nears – but for Nettie Watson, it’s not parties and presents that she wants.

Promises are made

For Nettie, Christmas only serves as a stark reminder of the life she used to have . . . One day she made a promise to never leave home, and so far she’s stayed true to her word.

Promises are broken

Under the glaring spotlight of the world’s media, Nettie is unexpectedly caught up in a 21st century storm . . . Her exploits have made her a global name and attracted the attention of one of the world’s most eligible men – famous front man, Jamie Westlake. But now she has his attention, does she want to keep it?

Rating: 4/5

As there couldn’t be Christmas without Karen Swan’s book – I personally can’t think about my Christmas TBR without Karen’s new novel – here we can enjoy her newest release, Christmas on Primrose Hill. I love Karen’s books – she has incredible way with words and she has this exceptional talent to make you feel like a part of the characters’ world – and it was the same with this tale. Lately books featuring our social media’s world are popping out one after another, but I think it’s just unavoidable, and when the books are so up – to – date and so greatly written as Christmas on Primrose Hill, the better, and as soon as I started reading it, I was hooked – and never expected anything else, to be honest.

This was a very modern story where some of the current trending hashtags were playing a big part, what with a Blue Bunny Girl having to copy them – and this is a little minus point from me, because I thought Karen could think about something totally new and exceptional, right? Nevertheless, it was really up – to – date, with the campaign going viral quicker than we can say “hashtag”. It just perfectly captured how, in fact, the modern technology controls our life, but what I liked is that Karen Swan has decided to use this internet obsession for good reasons.

Karen Swan has again gave us what we are looking for in her books, first and foremost brilliant characters. I can’t remember her book where I wouldn’t like the main heroine, and this time I also fell for Nettie mightily. Then we have Jamie, the impossible happening possible. I loved Nettie and Jamie’s story, they were so genuine in all that they did or said, and what I liked most was that the relationship was not the easiest one, not the obvious one. – there was never a certainty to how it’s going to end. The characters have, of course, quirks and they make mistakes, they jump to conclusions and complicate their own lives – just like we normally do, and this is what make me like them more.
I truly liked Nettie, she was so normal and so believable and really, I immediately warmed to her and there was something in her that just drew me to her. It was brilliant to go on this trip with her and see how her alter – ego Blue Bunny Girl amasses so much interest in internet, and how she desperately tried to keep the interest from her doorstep and focus on the campaign. Because there is also a secret to Nettie, a secret that turned out to be really sad and heart – breaking… I really admire the way the author tackled this problem, I could feel all Nettie’s emotions and her pain, but also her anger and confusion and living in uncertainty. She had a great relationship with her father, and I loved the scenes with both of them, they were funny but also touching.
As for Jamie, hmmm… Oh well, he was also brilliant, and in my opinion his personality was greatly described. I mean, he was a pop – star, right? And as much as he was also a normal guy, he could behave like a pop – star as well, which is IMO great and made him even more believable in my eyes. No matter what Nettie believed in or what she thought, there was a damn great chemistry between them, and the way the author described this relationship was believable and, what’s more important, possible to happen!

It’s truly a great escape, this novel, and the twisty storyline will keep you hooked. There are many layers to this book and it kept me on my toes, I couldn’t wait to see what’s expecting me when I’ll turn the page. I loved the setting of this story, the very modern London, with all its Christmas decorations and trendy places to be and see.

And as usual in Karen’s novels, under the surface, under all this lightness and humour, she’s plotted some very serious messages there. We can see what happens when the social media craziness goes wrong, how – even when you are the most normal person in the world – when the media got a wind of something that might be juicy in their opinion, there is not a hiding place for you. The author also emphasizes men’s health this time, and I really liked the way she has weaved it into this story. There is also the case of Nettie’s mother, which adds a lot of seriousness to the story – but all those things only make the reading more realistic and more likeable for me.

Although, I must say this, I had a feeling that the book is incredibly dragging along. It was as if the author wanted to fill in the pages with words – and as much as I liked those words, I couldn’t help thinking that it’s just going round in circles and takes us away from the real plot, from this what’s important. You know me – the longer the book the better for me, but in this case it could be much shorter and not lose on the quality, on the contrary, it would be much more gripping in my opinion. But I adored this story. It is such a typical Karen Swan’s tale, with outstanding characters, full of twists and turns. There was a great romance in there (which girl hasn’t dreamed of something like this happening to her???) and enticing, complex storyline. I really liked this book and can’t wait for more from Karen Swan!