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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Only Child by Rhiannon Navin (re – post)

Only Child by Rhiannon Navin

 

4124wlfzosl-_sx326_bo1204203200_Publisher: Pan

Publishing Date: 4th October 2018

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 384

Genre: General Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

Synopsis:

“Perfect for fans of Room… a heartbreaking but important novel.” —Real Simple

Readers of Jodi Picoult and Liane Moriarty will also like this tenderhearted debut about healing and family, narrated by an unforgettable six-year-old boy who reminds us that sometimes the littlest bodies hold the biggest hearts and the quietest voices speak the loudest.

Squeezed into a coat closet with his classmates and teacher, first grader Zach Taylor can hear gunshots ringing through the halls of his school. A gunman has entered the building, taking nineteen lives and irrevocably changing the very fabric of this close-knit community. While Zach’s mother pursues a quest for justice against the shooter’s parents, holding them responsible for their son’s actions, Zach retreats into his super-secret hideout and loses himself in a world of books and art. Armed with his newfound understanding, and with the optimism and stubbornness only a child could have, Zach sets out on a captivating journey towards healing and forgiveness, determined to help the adults in his life rediscover the universal truths of love and compassion needed to pull them through their darkest hours.

 

Rating: five-stars

 

“Only Child” is Rhiannon Navin’s debut novel and it a powerhouse of a book. It’s very easy to fell immediately in love with the main character Zach, with his innocence and the way he sees the world. And it is for sure not another school shooting story – there is much more to it and I hope it’s going to open people’s eyes.

This powerful novel deals with the aftermath of a school shooting. Told from the point of view of a six – year – old Zach Taylor who survived it, hidden in the class cupboard with other classmates by their teacher Miss Russell. The shooter killed 19 people and when Zach is reunited with his parents, Melissa and Jim, they find that his older brother Andy is nowhere to be found. Later it turns out that he is one of the victims of the shooter, the son of the school security guard, Charles Ranalez.

“Only Child” is a second book in a very short time that I’ve read told from a child’s point of view. The other one was a 4 – year – old girl and here we have a six – year – old Zach, and while his view of the world is innocent and realistic, just like this of a schoolboy, there was one thing that bothered me, as sometimes the narration was much too adult for him. If I wrote a book from a child’s perspective than I think I should keep the narration adequate to his age. However, Zach’s character is of course believable, his actions and reactions appropriate for his age. He really shows the adults what’s important, he teaches them the lesson that they desperately need. He was honest and innocent and telling things how they were.

The story of Zach was heart – breaking. His emotions and feelings were so brilliantly described and there was nothing more I wanted than to slap his mother, hard, really hard. I mean, I can’t put myself in her shoes, and I don’t want to, I understand she has lost one son but there was still Zach to think about. I just couldn’t watch how alone and lonely he felt. And you know what… Andy was a great kid, that’s for sure, he was excellent at sports but he was also suffering from ODD which means that he had very bad tempers and tantrums, and was not his fault, of course, and compared to the quiet, good as gold Zach, that you also quickly gets an impression was afraid of his big brother, well, you just fell for Zach, and the way his mother blanked him after Andy’s death felt so unfair, and I think you can’t help the feeling of … I don’t know what, not relief, but the feeling that perhaps it’s better for Zach that his brother is gone. Awful, I know, and not true of course, but I somehow felt like this – it just wasn’t easy to like Andy and I felt guilty with those feelings.

While Jim retreats into work he still finds time for Zach, and their interactions were beautiful. Melissa, on the other hand, wants a revenge and she does everything that the parents of the shooter will get punished for the act that their son has done. Little Zach is caught in between. They forget that he also has feelings, that he also has to mourn his brother, that he sees what’s happening at home. They are so preoccupied with their own feelings and emotions that they don’t see that Zach sees everything, their anger, unfairness and hypocrisy.

“Only Child” is a moving, powerful story about building bridges and finding way after the tragic loss . It is wonderfully and emotionally written, with really well drawn characters and you can’t help but fell for them, and you understand all the emotions of confusion and anger. Realistic and very sensitive, it is one of the saddest books but it is also uplifting. A very important read that I highly recommend!

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!

On a Beautiful Day by Lucy Diamond / #BlogTour

Hi guys, hope you all have a great Saturday! I am absolutely thrilled today to welcome you to my stop on Lucy Diamond’s blog tour for her newest release “On a Beautiful Day”. It’s not a secret that I’m Lucy’s huge fan and I adore her reletable, believable stories – they’re so easy to get into and to get lost into them, and it’s the same with this book – I’m sure you are also going to love it!

On a Beautiful Day by Lucy Diamond

 

36517591Publisher: Macmillan

Publishing Date: 11th January 2018

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

Number of pages: 496

Genre: Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Hardcover | Paperback

 

 

 

Synopsis:

It’s a beautiful day in Manchester and four friends are meeting for a birthday lunch. But then they witness a shocking accident just metres away which acts as a catalyst for each of them.

For Laura, it’s a wake-up call to heed the ticking of her biological clock. Sensible Jo finds herself throwing caution to the wind in a new relationship. Eve, who has been trying to ignore the worrying lump in her breast, feels helpless and out of control. And happy-go-lucky India is drawn to one of the victims of the accident, causing long-buried secrets to rise to the surface.

This is a novel about the startling and unexpected turns life can take. It’s about luck – good and bad – and about finding bravery and resilience when your world is in turmoil. Above all, it’s about friendship, togetherness and hope.

Rating: five-stars

 

Yes, guys. I love stories about friends and I love Lucy Diamond’s novels, so what could be better than a brand new Lucy Diamond book about four friends? Exactly! Lucy’s novels are always so comforting, they are easy reads that make you laugh and cry and they are always a winner, you can be sure that Ms Diamond is going to deliver a book that’ll fulfil all of your expectations. And it’s the same with “On a Beautiful Day”, just grab the book, your favourite blanket and a mug of hot chocolate with whipped cream and put a “Do Not Disturb” on your door.

 So the story follows four friends, Eve, India, Jo and Laura and let me tell this right now how much I enjoyed this friendship – it was pure and genuine, there weren’t any indiscretions  between the women, they didn’t conspired against each other like it often happens in books with such subject matter, no, it was a great, real friendship, with some secrets, of course, but when you read you’ll quickly learn why some of the girls choose to keep the things secret, what was their keynote, and you’ll going to understand them and fell for them immediately. On a beautiful day, when they meet to celebrate birthday of one of them, they witness a very horrific accident, where a car barely misses them and crashes in a shop nearby, leaving several people injured and dead. This accident makes them think and yes, it’s going to change their lives significantly.

I can’t say that I had my favourite character because they were all just awesome, normal, real women, with everyday problems, so unique and their friendship was great. They had their own lives and troubles, their own stories, however the moments in the book when they were together worked so very well.

Eve has been ignoring a lump in her breast. She’s scared to go to the doctor in case they’re going to confirm her fears. Help comes in the most unexpected way. I wasn’t so sure why Eve didn’t want to open to her husband, to be honest, I understand she wanted to be strong and independent, she never wanted help from anybody but there are moments in our lives when we just should share our problems with the closest ones.

Laura desperately wants a baby, however how is it going to happen when, after years of trying and disappointment, her husband has just left her? I think Laura’s story, of course as important and touching as the other three, was not as well developed and I felt the weakest connection with her. But of course I kept everything crossed for her, I fell for her as well and the end of her story surprised me very much, but also made me happy for her.

Her sister Jo, who’s just started a new relationship, has a very different problem, as the new boyfriends brings his teenage daughter with and she can’t quite bond with the girl. I so wasn’t sure about the new relationship, the quick move, I was really scared and afraid that she’s going to be hurt again, but following the motto “no risk, no fun” Jo dived pretty deep. She just wants to feel happy again. There were moments that I wouldn’t stand Rick’s daughter, but she was patient and determined to make the things run smoothly between them and I really admired her for this.

And India, who’s running mother and baby music classes, even though she had great ambitions before, she wanted to go to music college and was short of doing this, well, is she going to reveal the secret from her past that’s so haunting her? Is it this secret that makes her question everything, not being sure if she’s happy with her life, her children, her husband? Is the chance encounter going to answer all her questions and doubts or rather bring even more problems?

All the stories are beautifully written, and, typical for Lucy Diamond, with tons of gentleness, understanding and subtlety. They are all down to earth and very authentic, telling us about the effects they have on each of the characters and their closest ones.

 Lucy Diamond creates her characters in a way that make you feel as if you’ve known them for ages. You can’t help but fell in love with them, cheer them on and keep everything crossed for them. I was immediately hooked and warmed to all of the women from the word go. What is also so significant is that we can really easily identify with them all because Lucy Diamond makes them realistic and down to earth, and their problems as well.

There are many lighter and humorous situations in the story, as well as many emotional ones, and the book really tugs at the heart – strings. With four main characters there is a lot happening, so it’s fast paced and while I wouldn’t say that it’s full of twists or turns, there are for sure some surprises on the way and I wouldn’t call the story predictable – oh no! Forget about the wishy – washy stories and repeating plots, “On a Beautiful Day” is close to life, realistic and relatable book with complex and well developed characters.

Lucy Diamond’s writing is, as always, full of sensitivity, she writes beautifully and descriptive, but with a great dose of humour and there is a lot of understanding in her writing. The characters must face plenty of problems, their lives are not beds of roses and life can be challenging for them but the story is not sad but it will make you think about your own life and to re – consider some things, that’s for sure.

 It was a gorgeous story about appreciating your life, about facing the challenges on your way, about having the courage. This is a book about second chances and about trust, touching upon so many different and important issues like fertility, health concerns, (patchwork) families, relationships and friendship. I absolutely adored the fact that it was so compelling, clever and so challenging, with a complex plot and I enjoyed every single minute of it. Lucy Diamond’s book are guaranteed to provide you with all you need: laughter, tears, all kinds of emotions, suspense, and it’s not different with “On a Beautiful Day”, but the book is on no account too heavy or too overwhelming. It makes you think, so this is really my favourite kind of read, as it obliges to look under the surface. Highly recommended!

FOLLOW THE BLOG TOUR:

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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!

Book of the Month: April

Hi guys, and welcome to my Book of the Month feature. It’s not regular, as you can see for yourself – I think the more books I read, the more picky I start to be, and the book must be really, really special for me right now. I mean, I love most of the novels that I am lucky to read but only a few of them WOW me. In April there was one book that I loved incredibly, with my whole heart, and here it is.

So. The author of this books writes under different pen – names, but not matter what name it is, I just ADORE her stories. They are down – to – earth, realistic, with tons of sharp, dry humour and brilliant characters, and I could read them all the time. They are those kinds of book that I’d love to be able to read for the first time over and over again, and it was the same with Claire Sandy‘s newest release, “A Not Quite Perfect Family“.

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Here you can read my review, to see how much I really loved this story about the Carlile’s family. I am already looking forward to reading “The Woman at Number 24” that the author has written as Juliet Ashton and I haven’t had time to read yet – could you pretty please make my day this little bit longer?