The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton by Anstey Harris

The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton by Anstey Harris

 

39847781Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Publishing Date: 10th January 2019

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 352

Genre: General Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Hardcover | Paperback(out on 25.07.2019)

 

Synopsis:

GRACE ATHERTON HAS FALLEN OUT OF LOVE … AND INTO LIFE

Between the simple melody of running her violin shop and the full-blown orchestra of her romantic interludes in Paris with David, her devoted partner of eight years, Grace Atherton has always set her life to music.

Her world revolves entirely around David, for Grace’s own secrets have kept everyone else at bay. Until, suddenly and shockingly, one act tips Grace’s life upside down, and the music seems to stop.

It takes a vivacious old man and a straight-talking teenager to kickstart a new chapter for Grace. In the process, she learns that she is not as alone in the world as she had once thought, that no mistake is insurmountable, and that the quiet moments in life can be something to shout about …

For fans of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine and The Keeper of Lost Things, The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton is the story of a woman who has her heart broken, but then puts it back together again in the most uplifting and exquisite way.

Rating: four-stars

Grace Atherton is a cellist and a luthier and a shop owner – she repairs violins and cellos. She loves what she’s doing, though her dream was of becoming a professional cellist, however this dream has been ruined after she’d been ejected from music academy, though there is much more to this than we can think at first. She loves her boyfriend David, though as it happens he’s married and he’s at least honest with her about it, and about the fact that he won’t leave his wife, at least not while their children are still little ones. But he believes in Grace and he entered her into the Cremona Triennale Competition, for which she’s creating and building a cello. There are two other people who support her through thick and thin, a loyal and caring customer Mr. Williams, and her teenage, quirky and sassy shop assistant Nadia. But when something happens, that puts David in the public eye and their relationship in jeopardy, Grace’s safe life is torn to shreds. Will she be able to recover enough?

I don’t know, I can’t put into words, but this novel was simply magic. The way it was written, there was, despite all the little and huge dramas, the overwhelming feel – good factor, it was heart-warming and beautiful. Now I realise that what probably made me feel this way was the fact that, even though all the characters in this book has their own problems and issues, the problems were all resolved by the end, and maybe it is not how it always works in life but it sat well with this novel. Sure, maybe it was too fairy – talish, too perfect but on the whole I didn’t have a problem with this.

In the background, or maybe I should say in the foreground of this book, is music. I must admit that some of the descriptions, especially the one of the spontaneous concert at the end of the story, gave me goose bumps, so vividly and beautifully were they described. Also the descriptions of restoring the damaged instruments were for me surprisingly interesting, I’ve never supposed I’d found myself so engrossed in reading about a thing that I’ve no idea of. Although, to be honest, I think it was pretty lost on me as I really had no idea what I’m reading – please don’t get me wrong, it was beautifully written, elegant and eloquent and the author has brought all the things and music to life, you simply have to have a talent to write about music in such a way and I appreciate it with all my heart but it’s absolutely not my kind of thing. So there. I’ve said it. But I still loved it.

What didn’t work for me so much, though, is the fact how weak Grace was about her boyfriend David. Yes, I get it, that’s the way she was – emotional, full of feelings, with life experience but perhaps because of this she should have known better. Especially that, well, I didn’t like David, the smooth operator, and in my eyes Grace deserved much, much better. However, please do keep reading the book – at the end you’re going to understand how important it was for Grace, and I loved to see her growing in confidence. I thought that Grace is younger at the beginning, to be honest, judging her on the way she was talking about David and behaving around him, until her age was explicitly stated, and so, knowing that she was in fact forty made her seem a little too naive, too believing.

It was a fast – paced novel, even though a huge part of it covers the renovations of the instruments, and there is much about music, but – I think I’ve already mentioned it, and if not I’ll for sure mention it – it was simply beautifully written. The author has a brilliant, engaging and easy flowing writing style. She takes us for a journey from London, to Paris and eventually to Cremona in Italy, a journey full of ups and downs. You may not expect it, but Grace, who at the first glance seems to lead a very uneventful life, which, as it turns out, is not true, her life is rather complicated. I didn’t judge her, it was her choice to live her life like this, but the way she put David on a pedestal was unreasonable and, yes, made me feel a little sorry for her. Waiting for permission to travel to Paris to see him, I mean, Grace, hello? And let’s be honest, he couldn’t be more obvious in this whole “staying together for the kids’ sake” act.
The other characters, that were probably meant to be background ones, added so much colour and life to this book. Grace, Nadia and Mr. Williams, who also had their own problems, were a very unlikely trio that worked together brilliantly. They found each other and it was lovely to see how all of them needed this unusual friendship.

Altogether, “The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton” was a charming, uplifting and also though – provoking and controversial story about friendship, trust, lost loves and hopes, heartbreak, second chances, being back on your own feet. I might have not understand all Grace’s actions and decisions but they were necessary, for us to see how much it cost to learn from our own mistakes and how much it cost to just move on. There was incredible heart in the characters, they were so lovely developed and every feeling of theirs simply oozes from the pages. And I also think this book doesn’t need any comparisons to other books, because it’s going to stand alone by itself – it’s emotional, unique and a special debut novel by Anstey Harris – truly recommended!

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A Year at Castle Court by Holly Hepburn

A Year at Castle Court by Holly Hepburn

 

39859029Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Publishing Date: 27th December 2018

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 480

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

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

Synopsis:

The brand new novel from bestselling author Holly Hepburn, perfect for anyone who loves Jenny Colgan, Veronica Henry and Lucy Diamond.

Sadie is a single mum, nursing a broken heart. Her best friend from childhood, Cat, is burned out from working long hours as a chef in Paris. In need of a change, they decide to invest in their dream – running their own handmade biscuit shop in gorgeous Castle Court, a three-storey food court tucked away behind Chester’s bustling streets.

They soon discover that Castle Court has its own community – a little haven of delight against the stresses of the outside world. But not everyone welcomes the new business; the patisserie owner is less than pleased by what she sees as direct competition and Greg, who runs the fancy bistro that dominates one end of the courtyard, doesn’t think Sadie and Cat have the talent or business acumen to succeed. Luckily, there’s support in the form of the delectable Jaren, who owns the Dutch waffle house opposite Smart Cookies, and Swiss chocolate-shop owner, Elin. And if all else fails, the friends can drown their sorrows in Seb‘s cocktail bar on the third floor!

Rating: four-stars

In “A Year at Castle Court” two main characters, best friends Cat and Sadie, make their dream of owning and running a business together come true and start “Smart Cookies”, a shop specialising in selling hand – made biscuits. However, not all of the other businesses at Castle Court welcome them with open arms. There is a secret scandal, an almost ex – husband and many other troubles and challenges on the girls’ way to happiness.

I loved the friendship between Cat and Sadie, with all its ups and downs, supporting each other but also with the little conflicts, which only made it feel more realistic. They were both strong women and life was not a bed of roses for them. However, I think that I could relate more to Sadie, no particular reason why, just because. I wanted to give her a standing ovation for the way she has proceeded with the situation with her husband, not immediately jumping at the chance and making her life comfortable again, oh no, she’d rather followed her intuition and decided to give it time, which, let’s be honest, doesn’t happen often, right? Cat and Sadie were going from strength to strength, deciding to set up their own business, overcoming the reluctance of some of the neighbours from the close – knit community of Castle Court, and generally dealing with many, many challenges that life decided to face them with. They were strong and independent and I liked that they didn’t look for a man at any cost, that they were ambitious but also they weren’t afraid to ask for help when they needed it, and in the end their successes were their own.

The setting in this book was simply brilliant. I adored Castle Court, with all the little shops and businesses, and as much as I’d love to stop there by, it would be dangerous for my shape. As opposed to many, many other books where the characters open either a bakery or make cupcakes, Sadie and Cat specialise in biscuits, wonderfully decorated biscuits. I have to admit, after reading the book, I’ve spent a lot of time watching blogs or films on YouTube and incredibly admiring the art of icing. The things people can create, it’s simply amazing, and Sadie was exactly like that. Now I can even better imagine all those little wonders that she concocted, although they were of course so vividly described by the author – the colours, the ideas, it was simply fabulous and delicious.

The thing that didn’t sit so well with me was the fact that all the twists were solved in few sentences, at least in the same chapter. I like when there is a little tension and not knowing what’s going to happen, when the events stretch out through the story. I understand that the book was initially published as a four – parts series so probably it needed the quick action, but in a full – length story it just simply doesn’t work so well for me. And there were moments that I really missed the plot to develop, just like with the restaurant next door for example and the way the character just got away with it – it was as if the author simply didn’t have an idea how to continue this thread, which is a pity to be honest.

The story is full of little dramas, that usually happened so quickly and unexpectedly, keeping the pace aloft but also small wins and successes. You could really say that it was action packed and the characters have more than enough on their plates, and sometimes I simply couldn’t stop thinking, oh no, not this, please let them take a breath! Altogether, “A Year at Castle Court” was a lovely story about having confidence and courage and not giving up. It was a light – hearted read and I really enjoyed reading about the close – knit community, about the friendship and the dramas. Holly Hepburn’s writing style is so bright and optimistic, eloquent and colourful and it’s a joy to read her books, so I can only recommend this book to you – go an treat yourself!

 

The Mother of All Christmases by Milly Johnson / Blog Tour

The Mother of All Christmases by Milly Johnson

 

40200649Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Publishing Date: 15th November 2018

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 528

Genre: Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

Eve Glace – co-owner of Winterworld – is pregnant.  This sends the whole of the theme park into baby mania, especially as the baby’s due date is 25th December. But their joy is soured by the fact it appears someone is trying to sabotage the Christmas celebrations.

Annie Pandoro and her husband Joe own a small Christmas cracker factory, are well set up and happy together despite life never blessing them with a much-wanted child.  Now, Annie thinks she is going through the menopause and any vestige of hope has been extinguished.

Palma Collins has agreed to act as a surrogate, hoping the money will give her a helping hand out of the gutter in which she finds herself.  But when the couple split up just after she finds out she is pregnant, she is left carrying a baby she never wanted in the first place.

Annie, Palma and Eve all meet at the ‘Pudding Club’, a new directive started by a forward-thinking young doctor, who was Palma’s first love at school.  Though their lives have gone in very different directions, will this group help each other to find happiness and peace as Christmas approaches?

Rating: five-stars

“The Mother of all Christmases” by Milly Johnson – when you read this book you’ll appreciate how adequate this title is! – follows stories of three very different women, Palma, Eve and Annie. Palma is the one from the wrong side of the town and with a painful past and finds herself in a very difficult situation. Because of her financial troubles she agrees to become a surrogate for a couple who can’t have children. Eve and her husband Jacques run the Christmas themed Winterworld park and are up to their noses with organizing things. Eve knows her husband want a baby with his all heart and well, she doesn’t say no as well, but there is never the right moment for a baby, right? And Annie and her husband Joe, who run a cracker company have been desperate for a baby all their life but it just never happened. There were failed IVFs, a failed adoption and well, they came to terms with the fact that it’s only the two of them. Until it turns out that it’s not the menopause Annie thinks it is.
The three women meet at the Christmas Pudding Club, a club for pregnant women, and they hit it off immediately – their friendship start and they go together through happy and hard times, and there are going to be plenty of those for them.

I don’t know how Milly Johnson does it but each and every book of hers is simply brilliant – she for sure keeps her standard high, and “The Mother of all Christmases” is another cracker (pun intended) from this author. This book was so full of surprising moments, there were twists that I haven’t seen coming and that broke my heart more than once, but then mended it again. It made me cry ugly tears and it made me laugh out loud. It was clever, poignant, uplifting and simply beautiful.

What I found so brilliant and clever was the fact that we already know some of the characters in the book, and not only this, but also The Daily Trumpet, with all its hilarious spelling errors is back. Eve and Winterworld we’ve got to know in “A Winter’s Flame”, as well as some other characters and places from Milly’s previous books and it was so nice to be back with them, to see what’s happened to them and how they’re doing.
However, no worries, it is absolutely a stand – alone novel! But it’ll only make you wish you had read the other books as well, so be prepared, and maybe have the books on pre – order already, if not at your side already.

There are relatively many characters being introduced to us in this book but I coped! Actually, very easily. I had no problems to quickly get who is who, why and to whom they belong. All the characters tell their own, beautiful, sometimes very poignant, stories. The female leading characters Palma, Annie and Eve, even though they don’t know each other yet, have one thing in common – they’re all find themselves pregnant. It took some time for all of them to realize that they’re pregnant, especially in Eve’s case, and yes, she made me feel desperate at the fact that she didn’t notice/didn’t want to notice things that were obvious but well, she had her reasons. All the pregnancies were different – one that might be considered a controversial one, then a very unexpected one, and one simply a nice surprise. I loved all of the three characters though, probably not surprisingly, my heart went to Palma. Her story was so heart – breaking and it will probably stay with me for a very long time yet.
And I must mention one of the male characters – Tom. Guys, he was Mr. Perfect. Milly Johnson has so brilliantly captured the essence of him and has made him, a boxer, so human and so vulnerable, and the things he said to Palma… well, if somebody told me such things I’d print them, put them in frames and hang them on the wall.
The thing with Milly Johnson is that, even if it’s crystal clear that she herself loves her own characters, she gives them all her whole heart and soul, and she makes their lives happy and lets them look optimistically into their futures – then bang, and something happens. Something unexpected, something that turns their worlds upside down. There is actually a tension detectable through the pages, I personally couldn’t shake off the feeling that something bad is going to happen, and I kept everything crossed that it won’t happen. It doesn’t happen often that I’m so deeply involved in the characters and their lives, but in this book I actually lived and experienced things together with them, I fell for them and I couldn’t bear the thought that something could go wrong for them.

“The Mother of all Christmases” deals with many issues, some of them lighter, some heavier, and with Milly Johnson’s writing that is full of heart you’ll find yourself laughing, crying, smiling and laughing again. It is truly Milly Johnson at her best. She deals with the stuff that life throws at her characters in such a down – to – earth, casual way, she’s not afraid of throwing many challenges at her characters, of making their lives complicated and difficult. It is so well written, so full of events and there is not a single flat moment, the story is just flowing and you together with it. It was a story about friendship, sisterhood, loss, love, grief, relationships, second chances and many other things, beautifully and seamlessly binding all the threads and events together. It didn’t feel too overloaded, the pace was perfect and you’ll quickly find yourself engaged in the characters’ lives. Highly recommended!

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The Survivors by Kate Furnivall / Blog Tour

The Survivals by Kate Furnivall

 

 

41100508Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Publishing Date: 29th November 2018

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 448

Genre: Historical Fiction

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Hardcover | Paperback

 

 

 

Synopsis:

Discover a brilliant story of love, danger, courage and betrayal, from the internationally bestselling author of The Betrayal.

Germany, 1945. The Allied Military Government has set up Displaced Persons camps throughout war-ravaged Germany, to house the millions of devastated people throughout Europe who have lost everything. Klara Janowska is one of these. In her thirties, half Polish, half English, born and brought up in Warsaw, she fought for the Polish Resistance, helping to sabotage the Nazi domination of her country. But now the war is over and she has fled Poland with her 8 year-old daughter, Alicja, ahead of the advancing Soviet army, leaving her past behind her.

Or so she thinks.

She and Alicja are detained in Graufeld Camp, among a thousand strangers who have flooded into the protective custody of the British zone in Germany. She is desperate to get to England, her mother’s native country, but she has no identity papers. She needs to escape, at any cost.

This unstable world becomes even more dangerous when Klara recognises someone else in the camp – Oskar Scholz, a high-ranking member of the German Waffen-SS who terrorised Warsaw. Forced together in the confined claustrophobic space, the two of them know terrible secrets about each other’s past that would see them hanged if either told the truth. Both want the other one dead.

But the most displaced element in the camp is the truth. In a series of unexpected twists, the real truths finally emerge and drastically alter the lives of all.

An unforgettably powerful, epic story of love, loss and the long shadow of war, perfect for readers of Santa Montefiore and Victoria Hislop.

Rating: five-stars

Klara Janowska and her ten – year – old daughter Alicja have managed to survive the horrors of WWII, however the terror is not finished yet. They find themselves in Germany, in the Graufeld Displaced Persons Camp, where they are waiting for any news on their move to England, as Klara is half – English. At least they have a roof over their heads and something to eat there but still it’s not a safe place. especially as one day Klara catches a sight of a man, and it makes her blood run cold – they used to know each other, and he knows her secrets – Klara knows he’s a danger to both of them, her and Alicja. Will they manage to move to England before something terrible happens? Will they be safe? Or must Klara take matters in her hands and get rid of this man…? Will she loose all, after coming this far?

This book was closer to my heart than you could suppose. I was born in Poland and lived in Poland for almost 30 years, and the history, and especially the WWII was a very important part of my education, but not only this, I think it is normal when you’re growing up you want to know more about things and events that touch upon you, and so not only did I read many memories of the war, I also was in Auschwitz and well, if you haven’t been there I think it is impossible to imagine the immensity of the loss, of cruelty, of lives being sent to death. Hence this book, with its topic, was really close to my heart, my grandparents were all in the war and though they didn’t recount enthusiastically about those times they let slip some stories, and believe me, I won’t be able to forget them. And this is probably why I’ve immediately felt the atmosphere of the novel, I fell for the characters and felt with them and experienced together with everything they experienced.

I loved the character of Klara. She was a woman who knew what she wanted and she was not afraid to kick asses when necessary, she had fire in her and she was not afraid to cause troubles. She was incredibly resourceful and determined, she was to finish what she started no matter what. Her story was gripping, thrilling, incredibly sad but also full of hope. Having read many book about World War Two, it still made me feel anger and shock at all the situations and events Klara and her daughter Alicja had to endure.

Kate Furnivall is absolutely one of my favourite authors and every new release of hers is as excellent as the last one. I can never be sure which period of time the author is going to focus on this time and it is brilliant, as no matter which one it is, it is always absolutely perfectly researched, full of details and little things that made those times. It’s the same with “The Survivors” – even though I know much about WWII, about pre- and afterwar times, I don’t think I have ever heard about the displaced persons camps – they were for those who survived the war but lost their homes and families. It was shocking and so desperately sad to see that, even after the war, with all its atrocity and desperation, there were still people who haven’t learnt better – the author told things how they really were, brutally honest, highlighting all the ups and downs of living in the camp, though there were rather mostly downs.

It was incredible, unforgettable story full of intrigue, uncertainty, manipulation, danger, betrayal but also unconditional love and hope. The author’s writing is so beautiful and elegant and I was involved in this book right from the opening pages. There was a brilliant mystery added to the plot, and also we were left with all the secrets surrounding Klara – to be absolutely honest, I allowed myself to wonder once or twice if Klara is really who I’m thinking she is, or if there is more to her than meet the eye. The author has really done the secrets in the best possible way, we’re left till almost the very last moment to discover what it was that happened. And this is not all, as in the last few chapters Kate Furnivall presents us with such unexpected twist, I really didn’t know what to think, if I should cry or be happy, and she really left me with my mouth hanging I really didn’t want this book to end, to leave those unforgettable characters behind. “The Survivors” was a moving, emotional, poignant and heartbreaking but still with hope for humanity,  powerful read about courage, full of tension that made me feel afraid for Klara and Alicja – I wasn’t sure what’s going to happen when I turn the page, and it is the best kind of tension, believe me. Highly recommended!

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Jess Castle and the Eyeballs of death by M.B. Vincent

Jess Castle and the Eyeballs of Death

by M.B. Vincent

 

 

38745714Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Publishing Date: 18th October 2018

Source:  Received from the publisher via NetGalley, thank you!

Number of pages: 400

Genre: Mystery & Thrillers

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

Welcome to Castle Kidbury – a pretty town in a green West Country valley. It’s home to all sorts of people, with all the stresses and joys of modern life, but with a town square and a proper butcher’s. It also has, for our purposes, a rash of gory murders …
***Fast-paced and funny, this is a must-read for all fans of a classic murder mystery – think The Vicar of Dibley meets Midsomer Murders ***

Jess Castle is running away. Again. This time she’s running back home, like she swore she never would.

Castle Kidbury, like all small towns, hums with gossip but now it’s plagued with murder of the most gruesome kind. Jess instinctively believes that the hippyish cult camped out on the edge of town are not responsible for the spate of crucifixions that blights the pretty landscape. Her father, a respected judge, despairs of Jess as she infiltrates the cult and manages, not for the first time, to get herself arrested.

Rupert Lawson, a schooldays crush who’s now a barrister, bails her out. Jess ropes in a reluctant Rupert as she gatecrashes the murder investigation of DS Eden. A by-the-book copper, Eden has to admit that intuitive, eccentric Jess has the nose of a detective.

As the gory murders pile up, there’s nothing to connect the victims. And yet, the clues are there if you look hard enough.

Perfect for fans of MC Beaton, this is cosy crime at its most entertaining and enthralling.

Rating: three-stars

Jess Castle finds herself back in a place she was steering clear of – home, in Castle Kidbury. She’s just suddenly left her job at Cambridge and reluctantly came back. Her relationship with her father, the Judge, is not the most closest one, and she finds her hometown incredibly boring – that is, until there is a murder and a body of a local man is found. It doesn’t look like a normal assassination, it looks more like crucifixion, which – very conveniently – is Jess’s speciality, so she starts to act as the unofficial consultant to the local DS Eden. However, the body count increases, the more pagan symbols appear and everyone becomes a suspect. So Jess has not only to try to solve the murder but also try to refurbish her relationship with her father, and eventually decide what it is she wants to do with her life.

I really liked the small town atmosphere, this specific community spirit that the authors have captured in a great way. In Castle Kidbury everyone knows everyone and knows everything better – that is, until a murder happens. Or two. Or even more. There was a bunch of quirky, bouncy characters that I, unfortunately, felt unattached to. However, they were all really different and interesting and I think that more than often we have to take them with a pinch of salt.
It is written in a very detailed way, with attention to details, not only when it comes to describing the murder scenes. It was really easy to imagine the town and the characters and the authors have way with words. It was also incredibly well researched, with a solid historical and religious background. The banter between the characters was truly enjoyable, especially the witty and clever exchanges between Jess and DS Eden – they were quick, sharp and humorous, especially when they were interrupted by DC Knott.
I have no idea who and why could the be the assassin. The authors have done a great job pulling wool over our eyes, with complicating things, and making almost everyone in the book a suspect. However, I am not sure if I’m really satisfied with the ending, I think after being introduced to all the paganism, symbolism etc I was expecting a different ending. On the other hand, it was surprising, unexpected and twisty, so what’s not to like, right?

However, this book confused me. It dragged on, and it simply couldn’t keep me hooked. I skipped passages because they were not engaging. This story didn’t work for me, didn’t sit with me. I loved all the gory details, and the idea for the plot, but all the other things, the characters just made me feel confused, they were somehow not complete. I am disappointed with this, as I was sure that this book, written by MB Vincent, who’s actually a married couple and one half of this couple belongs to my absolutely favourite authors, is going to be a real cracker for me. The romance aspect was a little askance, I’d say, and it didn’t feel too natural and realistic, especially in this story. It seemed that Jess wanted it much more than the male character, that she somehow forced him to blossom into her. There was a little of will they/won’t they but it was for sure not like all the others that I keep reading in my books, but it just felt underdeveloped and ragged.

Altogether, “Jess Castle and the Eyeballs of death” is a brilliant mixture of sharp humour, murder, mystery, gory details and also some romance. Regardless of the terrible murders, the story is told in a light and warm way, and I’d dare to call is a cosy murder. It was different, an unique read that was like a breath of fresh air and I’m really sorry it didn’t work for me. However, I do hope there is more to come from this author(s).

 

Snowflakes and Cinnamon Swirls at the Winter Wonderland by Heidi Swain

Snowflakes and Cinnamon Swirls at the Winter Wonderland

by Heidi Swein

 

 

40013831Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Publishing Date: 1st November 2018

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 400

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

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

Synopsis:

After calling off her engagement, Hayley, the Wynthorpe Hall housekeeper, wants nothing more than to return to her no-strings fun-loving self, avoiding any chance of future heartbreak. Little does she know, Wynbridge’s latest arrival is about to throw her plan entirely off course . . .

Moving into Wynthorpe Hall to escape the town’s gossip, Hayley finds herself immersed in the eccentric Connelly family’s festive activities as they plan to host their first ever Winter Wonderland. But Hayley isn’t the only new resident at the hall. Gabe, a friend of the Connelly’s son Jamie, has also taken up residence, moving into Gatekeeper’s Cottage, and he quickly makes an impression on Wynbridge’s reformed good-girl.

As preparations commence for the biggest event of the season, the pair find themselves drawn ever closer to one another, but unbeknownst to Hayley, Gabe, too, has a reason for turning his back on love, one that seems intent on keeping them apart.

Under the starry winter skies, will Gabe convince Hayley to open her heart again once more? And in doing so, will he convince himself?

Snowflakes and Cinnamon Swirls at the Winter Wonderland is the perfect read this Christmas, promising snowfall, warm fires and breath-taking seasonal romance. Perfect for fans of Milly Johnson, Carole Matthews and Cathy Bramley.

Rating: three-stars

Hayley is engaged and to be married soon, but at her engagement party she discovers that her boyfriend hasn’t been faithful to her. As things are also not at the nicest at home, she decides to take an offer of moving into Wynthorpe Hall, a place that she’s been working in for a long time already and that she loves. She just wants to forget and move on. But, as is turns out, she’s not to be the only one new resident to the Hall. Jamie’s friend Gabe is joining the family too. They’re both not interested in a relationship but they feel comfortable in each other’s company – however, can it be that fate has other plans for them?

I have a confession to make. Even though I have some of Heidi Swain’s book, this one, “Snowflakes and Cinnamon Swirls at the Winter Wonderland” is the first novel by this author that I’ve read. I’ve heard such great things about Ms Swain’s books and I thought, well, it’s highest time to read it. I was a little afraid, to be honest, as the novels are part of series, set in the charming Wynthorpe Hall and the surrounding village, afraid that I’d missed too much and won’t be able to keep on track. But no worries, guys, it really felt as reading a stand – alone book. There were enough background info to deduce what’s happened in the past to understand the whys and whats of the characters.

Our main character Hayley was a quirky, fierce girl who knew what she wanted. I’m sure it was properly explained in one of the previous books, the whole situation with her family and especially father but I was just thinking, oh boy, what must have happened for him to be so cruel towards his daughter, to be so cool, rejecting and not interested. The relationship between Hayley and her mother was also a bit enigmatic for me, it didn’t seem to be lots of love there, and it made me really sad. I definitely have to read the other book to get into the heart of their story. Hayley was hard on the outside, she had a big mouth but let’s be honest, she was really soft inside and she had a heart in the right place. And it was not a wonder that she was like this, what with her past that made her so out of reach and also short – tempered but if you get your time to get to know her, you’ll understand her motives. She may not be the easiest character to immediately like but this feeling comes really quickly, and I truly fell for her.
Gabe’s background history was incredibly sad and it made my heart break. He was an interesting character, what with him blowing hot and cold all the time, and yes, it started to be irritating, but then came the moment when he explained what has happened in the past and well, it changed my feelings a lot. There were many layers to him, as well as to Hayley, and I liked that their characters were not so straight – forward.

But, after reading so many brilliant things I was expecting something really brilliant. For me, however, it was just a normal story – it was nice, yes, but it didn’t wow me, I’m really sorry. It’s probably my fault, as I went into this book with very high expectations. Please don’t get me wrong, it was a cosy, lovely, Christmassy read, of course it was but I didn’t find there anything that would make me feel like so many other reviewers felt about it. I loved the idea of the Winter Wonderland and would love to read much more about it. I was also in awe how, short and sweet, they were able to organize it. OK, to be honest, I think I’d rather have many more chapters about it because it seemed a truly magnificent, fabulous and festive event. It was simply the best part of the book, enchanting and amazing. The rest – simply – didn’t wow me as much as I think it would.

The writing style was light and not too complex, and there was warmth to it. The story was lovely and lovingly interspersing few threads and the author touches upon some very sensible and poignant issues, though she isn’t going too deep into them. I really liked and appreciated the way the author has decided to write the romance here, the ongoing will they/won’t they – yes, it was there, but it was not too overwhelming, not too long and the characters didn’t make you feel desperate to bang their heads together. There was some romance in it, heartbreak and secrets, and the setting was simply gorgeous. I’m really happy that I still have other Heidi Swain’s books to dive into.

 

While I Was Sleeping by Dani Atkins (Blog Tour / Q&A with the Author)

Hi guys! It’s summer, it’s Sunday and it’s second day of Dani Atkins’s blog tour! I am double thrilled to be hosting this stop today as it is my first since a very, very long time Q&A with the Author! The lovely Dani was so kind and in a flash answered my questions about her newest release, “While I Was Sleeping” – thank you! So put your feet high and enjoy!

 

Q&A WITH DANI ATKINS

Hi Dani, and welcome to the blog. Could you shortly tell us about you.

Until five years ago my life was pretty unremarkable. I live in the Hertfordshire countryside in a 350 year old cottage, which disappointingly is not haunted. My two children have both grown and flown the nest, leaving me to lavish all my love and affection on my crazy border collie Dusty, my cat Elsa, and a little on my husband too. For many years I worked as a secretary in a school, but then in 2013 something amazing happened … my first book was published, and nothing has really been the same since then.

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I haven’t had a chance to read “While I Was Sleeping” yet. It’s already your fifth full time novel – amazing! How would you “sell” it to your potential readers?

While I Was Sleeping is an emotional drama centred around three main characters, two women and one man, whose lives becoming entwined in ways they could never have imagined after a tragic event changes the course of their future. At its heart the book is about love and friendship, themes I hope every reader will be able to relate to.

 

“While I Was Sleeping” is about your whole life changing – where did the inspiration

for such a story come from?

I’ve always been fascinated by the way your entire future can be re-written in a single devastating moment, and it’s a theme that I keep returning to in my books, so it obviously strikes a deep chord with me. Having really enjoyed writing about two strong female protagonists in Our Song, I was keen to once again have two women who find themselves in a devastating life changing situation.

 

Is this novel, in any way, based on your own experiences, or is it purely fiction?

Some aspects of the book were inspired by certain news stories that had fascinated me. Another important story arc was actually inspired by the experiences of a close personal friend of mine. The rest is a product of my very over-active imagination.

 

As your devoted reader, I know that your novels are really tear – jerking (and I love it!). How is it to write such novels? Do you also cry when writing them? How much of you do you invest in your stories, in your characters?

Each time I’ve finished writing a book I’ve promptly burst into tears, but I think that might be more from relief than the actual story. Sometimes a very emotional scene will make me tear up a little when I write it, however it’s when I read it out loud (something I do each day) that the sad bits really get to me. Quite a few times I’ve had to stop because I was too choked to carry on!

During the entire writing process you live with a whole cast of imaginary people – it’s like having lodgers in your head. They are with you all the time, even when you’re not actually writing about them. It would be impossible not to become invested in them and the things that are happening to them. Very early on they become not just characters in a book, but real people who you care about.

 

What would you like your readers to take from “While I Was Sleeping”?

To live with no regrets. Leave nothing to chance. Put nothing off. Fill every minute with joy surrounded by the people you love. Nothing else matters.

 

Which character was the most difficult to write?

To be perfectly honest, I loved them all.  They were a joy to write and I still miss them all dreadfully.

 

When you write, do you always follow a plan or do you let your characters to take you on a journey?

I’m not a planner, although I have author friends who wouldn’t do it any other way. When I sit down to begin a book I always know where it will start and where it will end. It’s the bit in the middle that is a mystery. This can make it quite scary when you first begin, but it also makes the whole process rather exciting.

Once you have created the characters, they have a funny way of taking on a life of their own. Sometimes it feels as though they are in charge of the story and not me. I am just the observer and the narrator.

 

On a little lighter note, what are three facts that we don’t know about you Dani?

I’m a nervous driver and never drive on motorways.

I have double jointed thumbs.

I am obsessed with country music.

 

It’s so hot right now – do you have any plans for holidays?

Over the last few years I have become a total convert to cruising, and am really looking forward to going on my next one later this year.

 

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