Love Songs for Sceptics by Christina Pishiris

Love Songs for Sceptics by Christina Pishiris

 

Publisher: Simon & Schuster cover174102-medium

Publishing Date: 28th November 2019

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

Number of pages: 320

Genre: General Fiction, Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Paperback (out on 30.04.2020)

 

 

Synopsis:

My brother’s getting married in a few weeks and asked for help picking a song for his first dance. I suggested Kiss’s ‘Love’s a Slap in the Face’.

It didn’t go down well.

When she was a teenager, Zoë Frixos fell in love with Simon Baxter, her best friend and the boy next door. But his family moved to America before she could tell him how she felt and, like a scratched record, she’s never quite moved on. Now, almost twenty years later, Simon is heading back to London, newly single and as charming as ever . . .

But as obstacles continue to get in her way – Simon’s perfect ex-girlfriend, her brother’s big(ish) fat(ish) Greek wedding, and an obnoxious publicist determined to run Zoë – Zoë begins to wonder whether, after all these years, she and Simon just aren’t meant to be.

What if, despite what all the songs and movies say, you’re first love isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be? What if, instead Zoë and Simon are forever destined to shuffle around their feelings for each other, never quite getting the steps right . . .

With a smart, relatable central character and razor-sharp wit, Love Songs for Sceptics is perfect for fans of Mhairi McFarlane, Lucy Vine and Lindsey Kelk. 

Rating: three-stars

 

Zoe is a music journalist and editor for a cool magazine Re – Sound. It may not be the best paying job, but she loves it and it gives her the opportunity to meet new, interesting and creative people. When Zoe was 13 years old, she fell in love with her best friend, Simon Baxter but she never told him what she feels. Now, in her thirties, her job is her life but then Simon comes back from the States, separated from his wife, so maybe now is the time for them?
In the meantime, the things at work are not running smoothly and the magazine may be closed down. The only salvage is an interview with someone special, and Zoe knows who that can be – her favourite music artist, Marcie Tyler, bit will she manage to get this interview? Namely, Marcie’s publicist Nick and Zoe are not the best friends.

The characters were developed well enough, although more than often I couldn’t understand their actions. The romance aspect was, I don’t know, somehow cold and not so heart – warming, I couldn’t warm to Simon at all and I really couldn’t see what Zoe sees in him – he was arrogant and, in my eyes, he used Zoe and took her for granted. Sure, they have a past and memories but as soon as they were together it all felt so unnatural for me. Actually, now I think about it, Zoe around men felt unnatural, she was also so tense around Nick and well, it spoiled the whole picture, made the reading difficult. Nevertheless, I still think that Zoe was the strongest link in this book. She is an interesting, complex character with fiery personality, who is passionate about her work and music, and I loved how the fate of the magazine was so important to her, and how much she cared about her co – workers. She is friendly and full of heart, so no wonder that she’s surrounded by friends, but she also can be stubborn and full of unexpected ideas when she wants something badly. What she doesn’t have, is luck with her love life – still holding torch for her childhood friend and not seeing what is around her.

It was a great idea to use the song titles for the chapters, they fitted perfectly, and the focus on music business, how it really is being inside it, how the music PR works, showing that it’s not only a bed full of roses, was a great idea. And the best parts of the book were for me the scenes about the big fat Greek wedding preparations and everything that regarded to it. Zoe’s future sister – in – law Alice was lovely and I really liked how Zoe allowed herself to relax in her company.

Altogether, “Love Songs for Sceptics” was a nice debut novel that had it moments but, sadly, it missed the wow – effect for me. I wasn’t completely engaged and couldn’t warm to the characters as much as I like to. The beginning, when Zoe is asked by her brother to help him choose a song for the first dance at his upcoming wedding and she chooses Kiss’s “Love’s a Slap in the Face” was absolutely brilliant and I was hoping that the book is going to stay with this humorous, witty tone but unfortunately it didn’t happen, it simply went downhill for me. I can’t put my finger exactly on what went wrong, and I can see that the story is accumulating raving reviews, so simply try this book and decide for yourself.

Snowed in at the Practice by Penny Parkes

Snowed In at the Practice by Penny Parkes

 

Publisher: Simon & Schuster 44655866._sy475_

Publishing Date: 14th November 2019

Series: The Larkford Series #4

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

Number of pages: 496

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

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

Synopsis:

Welcome to the Larkford Surgery in the Cotswolds, the heart of a tightknit community as well as a hotbed of drama, rivalry, resentment and romance – and that’s just the doctors …

Dr Holly Graham is finding life with two sets of twins exhausting. Even with husband Dr Taffy Jones and devoted friend Elsie by her side, she is completely outnumbered. Making the transition back to work will be no easy feat but a regular slot on Radio Larkford as their on-air doctor might be the perfect stepping stone, until an unexpected job offer changes everything.

Dr Alice Walker’s new canine clinic at Larkford Surgery with Coco, her assistance dog, has been a storming success. If only shipping her best friend, Dr Tilly Grainger, in from South America to cover for Holly had been such a smooth transition. It seems that Tilly isn’t finding life in the peaceful Cotswolds valley as rewarding as she’d hoped, and she is causing chaos …

Join the residents of Larkford as secrets, drama and romance are revealed, in the new novel from the bestselling author of Out of Practice and winner of the RNA Romantic Comedy Award 2017.

Rating: five-stars

 

In “Snowed in at the Practice” we are back with old, good characters and introduced to some of the new ones. Holly is on maternity leave and in her place we have the feisty Tilly, and while Holly is dealing with her second set of twins, Tilly starts to find what it is she’d love to do – but will she be able to stay at the Practice? Especially as Holly is trying to work out how to return to work – she so wants to be more than just mum again, she needs this thrill of being able to help. But will the others support her in her decisions?

This book is a brilliant catch up with Holly, Taffy and their two sets of twins but it also introduces us to a new nanny, feisty and quirky and full of life and surprises, and Tilly, Alice’s friend, but also Connor, who has moved to Larkford, a former rock star trying to get to terms with his wife’s death, wanting to lead a quiet life far away from London and taking every stray animal that he sets his eyes on. But we also see Dan and Grace’s relationship developing and there are some most poignant moments including those two. And let’s not forget Elsie – the Grande Dame with head full of ideas.

I think that every new book in the series is better than the previous ones, and I think it is because of a few factors. Penny Parkes’s writing is getting better and better, firstly, it feels like a warm hug, is so inviting, warm and vivid. Then it is always great to be back with characters that you’ve already got to know, know what makes them tick and it is always nice to simply pick up with them where we left them in the previous book, without the necessity of great introductions. And, of course, the story itself, the plot but most of all it being full of emotions and feelings, turns and twists and the most poignant but also heart – warming moments.

It was really nice to be back in Larkford, and in the Practice. This book had, I don’t know how to call it, a feeling? It had this “something” that made it outstanding, brilliant read. No matter when you read the last book in the series, you will immediately feel at home, as if you’ve never been away from the characters and their lives. Lives that felt incredibly real and realistic, with problems that are so familiar, so it was so easy to fell for them all, knowing what they’re experiencing and what they’re feeling. And this time there was a lot in store for the doctors and people surrounding them. There was not a single flat moment, and even though the author again dedicated a lot of the pages to the Practice and its patients, describing their problems, this time those problems were incredibly relatable – at least, to me – and Penny Parkes treated them with tons of understanding, care and love. So yes, there were many storylines to follow, but they were so skilfully written and so engaging that I haven’t feel confused for a single moment.

It was a lovely, charming and warm book about families, showing how they come in different shapes and sizes, and that being a family doesn’t mean you must be born in it. It also touched upon such difficult issues like being a mother and trying to hush your guilty conscience when thinking about coming back to work but also how hard it is to be only a mum sitting at home, and how complex and complicated it may be trying to bring those two facts together. About how important it is to be understood and to have a support of your closest ones, and finally about the strength of friendship. And I love the fact that the author emphasised the importance of the assistance animals, and I loved the scenes including the dogs and also Banana – a wonderful idea! Highly recommended!

The Guardian of Lies by Kate Furnivall / Blog Tour

The Guardian of Lies by Kate Furnivall

 

Publisher: Simon & Schuster 46635448._sy475_

Publishing Date: 31st October 2019

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 400

Genre: General Fiction (Adults), 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 Survivors.
1953, the South of France. The fragile peace between the West and Soviet Russia hangs on a knife edge. And one family has been torn apart by secrets and conflicting allegiances.

Eloïse Caussade is a courageous young Frenchwoman, raised on a bull farm near Arles in the Camargue. She idolises her older brother, André, and when he leaves to become an Intelligence Officer working for the CIA in Paris to help protect France, she soon follows him. Having exchanged the strict confines of her father’s farm for a life of freedom in Paris, her world comes alive.

But everything changes when André is injured – a direct result of Eloise’s actions. Unable to work, André returns to his father’s farm, but Eloïse’s sense of guilt and responsibility for his injuries sets her on the trail of the person who attempted to kill him.

Eloïse finds her hometown in a state of unrest and conflict. Those who are angry at the construction of the American airbase nearby, with its lethal nuclear armaments, confront those who support it, and anger flares into violence, stirred up by Soviet agents. Throughout all this unrest, Eloïse is still relentlessly hunting down the man who betrayed her brother and his country, and she is learning to look at those she loves and at herself with different eyes. She no longer knows who she can trust. Who is working for Soviet Intelligence and who is not? And what side do her own family lie on?

Rating: five-stars

 

Eloïse was born in rural France and grew up on her father’s bull farm, together with her two brothers. She loves the farm, but as soon as she can, she follows the footsteps of her older brother Andre and flees to Paris. She finds a job in the detective agency, as she’s fascinated by Andre’s – the brother she so idolises – job as a CIA Intelligence Officer. We get to know them both right in the opening scene that feels like a scene from James Bond film, a thrilling car chase in which Andre is injured. As she was driving, Eloïse is filled with guilt and decides to find out who has tried to kill her bother, and why. Summoned home, she doesn’t give up on her chase after the truth, but she also realises that the danger may be much closer home than she thinks.

I have immediately became absorbed in the story and the characters’ lives – but it hasn’t surprised me, as I wasn’t expecting anything different from Kate Furnivall’s book! As usual with her books, the characters felt like living and breathing people, and her leading female characters – in this case Eloïse – are strong – minded and brave. Eloïse was capable and determined, however I didn’t warm to her immediately. As much as I appreciated the fact that she’s so determined, she was also much too naive in my eyes and I had a feeling that she’s like the wind, moving in different directions, depending on what she was said. She also behaved too amateurish for my liking, lacked in skills that you’d need as an actual spy. She was too trusty, especially at the beginning, but then she started to have doubts, and she felt more mature. Nevertheless, she was so real with her emotions and feelings of guilt, fear and uncertainty, she wanted the best for all and to find peace. In her hurry and willingness to help, she often makes mistakes, and also tends to do the very opposite of what is said she should do, and really, more than once I was expecting the things to turn out not so rosy for her, and once I really thought that this is it for Eloïse. But altogether, the more I read, the more she grew on me, and I truly admired her determination and the fact that nobody and nothing could dishearten her to find the truth.
The relationships between the characters in this book are so well written! They were not easy, they were not straightforward, they were often thought – provoking but the loyalty Eloïse felt towards her family was lovely to see, even if sometimes this family didn’t show as much concern for Eloïse as she for them.

I always admire Kate Furnivall’s skills to create a brilliant, engaging and complex plot, no matter what period of times her novels are set in. This time she takes us to the mid century France involved in the Cold War. I admit, it is not a period of time that I know much about, so the more interesting it was for me and I have learnt more about post – war France that I could hope for. The loyalties of the French, that were split between America, and the communist Soviet Union, and the tension and unrest it has provoked, provided an interesting and engaging background and she creates a perfect sense of time and place.

Mostly the author has played real mind – games with me and I was like Eloïse, not knowing who was telling the truth and who was telling lies, who was the good and who was the bad one, who wants to help Eloïse and who wants to see the back of her, and how does her family fit into all of those situations. It made my head spinning but it was enthralling and very entertaining.

“The Guardian of Lies” was meticulously researched, vividly written in a way that awakens all your senses while living the story through along with the characters, and brilliantly crafted novel from one of my favourite authors. She has – again – provided us with engaging and complex plot and multi – faceted characters, bringing them all to life and effortlessly transporting the readers into the setting of her novel. It was a fast – paced, unique, compelling and addictive story about love and betrayal, courage and subterfuge, making you feel as if you had your heart in your mouth. Highly recommended!

 

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The Christmas Wish List by Heidi Swain / Blog Tour

The Christmas Wish List by Heidi Swain

 

Publisher: Simon & Schuster 47135375._sy475_

Publishing Date: 3rd October 2019

Series: Wynbridge #7

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 432

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

Buy the Book:  Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

Synopsis:

***The sparkling new Christmas novel from the Sunday Times bestselling author Heidi Swain!***

After being let go from her job in a swanky hotel just weeks before Christmas, Hattie is feeling lost. Even more so when her high-flying boyfriend announces he’s landed his dream job in Abu Dhabi and asks her to move with him. Luckily, Hattie’s long-time friend Dolly is on hand to help and invites Hattie to spend one last holiday in the small, festive town of Wynbridge, determined to give her a Christmas to remember . . .

Upon Hattie’s arrival, holiday preparations are in full swing. But for Hattie, whose Christmas cheer has long since run out, it’ll take more than mince pies and mistletoe to open her heart to the season once more. Relishing the task of reigniting Hattie’s Christmas spirit, Dolly suggests they create a wish list of all the things the season can offer, and with the helpful hands of Wynbridge’s resident handyman, Beamish, Hattie finds her frosty exterior is starting to thaw.

As Wynbridge prepares for its most spectacular Christmas yet, will Hattie leave snowy England behind for life in a sunnier clime, or will she in fact realise that her heart’s desire lies much closer to home?

The Christmas Wish List is the perfect read this Christmas, promising snowfall, warm fires and breath-taking seasonal romance. Perfect for fans of Carole Matthews and Cathy Bramley.

Rating: four-stars

 

“The Christmas Wish List” introduces us to Hattie, who has just lost her beloved job in a hotel. To say that her world is turned upside down would be an understatement, she’s devastated. However, her boyfriend Jonathan announces that it’s a perfect timing, as he’s just been offered his dream job in Abu Dhabi and wants Hattie to come with him. Before the move though, Hattie decides to spend her last Christmas with her friend Dolly in Wynbridge, even though she’s not so full of the festive cheer. But with lots of festive activities, Hattie volunteering at school, mince pies and a helpful and friendly handyman Beamish will Hattie’s festive spirit reawaken? 

No matter what season, Heidi Swain can brilliantly and precisely capture the atmosphere, and so this time she takes us back to Wynbridge in winter, close to Christmas, and really, reading the book made me start my own Christmas countdown. It’s already full of festive spirit and I can’t wait to decorate my own house.  

Basically, I liked our Hattie very, very much. I think that I didn’t like the previous version of her, the Jonathan’s girlfriend version, and I adored to watch her starting to relax and enjoy her life, and hated how she changed as soon as Jonathan was nearby. I was actually waiting for something really bad happening when he was around, I had a feeling that was telling me that there is much more to him hidden under the mask of the lovely, handsome and generous man.                                                                                                     And this time – hallelujah! – I also enjoyed Dolly. You know me and how I feel about the older, wiser characters, right, so I am always scared that when such a character enters the pages of the book, it’s going to spoil the whole reading experience for me. However, Dolly was absolutely adorable. Yes, she was older, and yes, she was wise, but she was not too overwhelming with this wisdom, and the way she tried to show Hattie the right way was subtle and gentle.                                                                                                                    And Beamish. Anytime, anywhere. I mean, anytime is he allowed to turn up on my doorstep. Swoon.  

Heidi Swain’s writing style is developing and getting better with every book and the storyline in this novel was really well – structured. Yes, there were moments that I felt it dragged on a bit, and some things happened very conveniently for the plot to go on, but altogether I enjoyed every single word. The author brings the characters and the setting to life through her lovely, colourful and vivid descriptions and it’s so easy to lose yourself in reading. 

This book was full of not so obvious romance, searching for happiness, finding out what you want to do in life and with whom. It was about friendship, forgiveness, and standing on your own two feet. It was full of warmth, perfect read to curl up with a mug of hot chocolate with marshmallows on top. There was the right amount of festive cheer, it was a bit predictable but also adorable, the characters were lovely and the setting gorgeous – what more do you need from a book? Exactly – so simply make sure that it is on your wish – list! Highly recommended!

 

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The Lying Room by Nicci French

The Lying Room by Nicci French

 

Publisher: Simon & Schuster 44182513._sy475_

Publishing Date: 3rd October 2019

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 432

Genre: Mystery & Thrillers

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Hardcover

| Paperback (out on 02.04.2020)

 

 

 

Synopsis:

*** THE BRAND NEW STANDALONE NOVEL FROM THE MASTER OF PSYCHOLOGICAL SUSPENSE ***

Neve Connolly looks down at a murdered man.
She doesn’t call the police.

‘You know, it’s funny,’ Detective Inspector Hitching said. ‘Whoever I see, they keep saying, talk to Neve Connolly, she’ll know. She’s the one people talk to, she’s the one people confide in.’
A trusted colleague and friend. A mother. A wife. Neve Connolly is all these things.
She has also made mistakes; some small, some unconsciously done, some large, some deliberate. She is only human, after all.
But now one mistake is spiralling out of control and Neve is bringing those around her into immense danger.
She can’t tell the truth. So how far is she prepared to go to protect those she loves?
And who does she really know? And who can she trust?
A liar. A cheat. A threat. Neve Connolly is all these things.
Could she be a murderer?

Rating:   three-stars

 

Neve Connolly is a married graphic designer, household’s provider, as her husband does work from home but no money is coming in from him. Between this, work, her three children, lack of money, Neve injects some unexpected thrill into her life by having an affair with her boss. Once she receives a text from him, in which he asks her to meet in his flat. Only, she finds him dead on the floor, most likely killed with a hammer. In her panic to protect her family from the consequences of her infidelity, she cleans – up the flat to remove all traces of her. And then the waiting starts – was she able to eliminate the evidence? Did she forget something? Yes, she did! She left something in the flat but when she comes back, it’s gone – as well as the hammer!

It was a difficult book, I still – after a bit more than a week after finishing it – am not sure how I feel about it. It started really good and I was truly invested in Neve’s life that was a real drudgery and I felt for her and her situation, then the discovery of Saul’s body, but then the story went downhill, with monotonously describing every single detail of Neve’s life in a tad flat style. There was actually not a lot happening, and the whole atmosphere was one of depression and desperation, and the credibility of the story was… rather doubting. I mean, I think that police should really solve the case in a few hours. The characters were also not too likeable, I had troubles to warm to them and it didn’t happen, and I missed more about the whole thing with Mabel. Neve herself was supposed to be incredibly friendly and warm, everyone wanted to be her friend but I never got why – there was actually nothing in her indicating these attributes. The ending of the book, ie. finding the murderer, it also didn’t sit well with me, I don’t know, I had a feeling that the author has simply lost an idea and took this character, out of the blue, to be the killer. No, I didn’t guess who did it, but the final reveal made me go “erm, what? How come?”

I missed emotions in the writing style. It felt so polished and pedantic, with the author paying a great attention to all of the details, to the point that it was too monotonous, but without feelings, very object – focused. The plot development is immaculate and the tangled web of deceit, lies and revenge is neatly interwoven into it but it is simply to clinical.

It was a story full of lies and misunderstandings, with a few turns and twists but it missed the mark for me. This was my first book by Nicci French but I’ve heard so many great fantastic things about her books, and so I thought, here I am for a treat. And at the beginning it was like this – a shocking, captivating start but in the end there was too much that didn’t work me, sadly.

Living My Best Li(f)e by Claire Frost

Living My Best Li(f)e by Claire Frost

 

Publisher: Simon & Schuster 45718284._sy475_

Publishing Date: 5th September 2019

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 368

Genre: Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

~*~ This heart-warming and funny novel is the perfect balm for the Insta-weary mind ~*~
Bell
had it all, the perfect job, the perfect partner, and on their 10th anniversary she thought she would get the ring… But two weeks later, Bell wakes up to find herself still clutching a wine bottle and the memories of Collin saying those dreaded words: ‘We need to talk…’

Determined to get on with her life before she hits 40, Bell starts following ‘inspirational’ people on Instagram. Her favourite lifestyle guru is @mi_bestlife, whose life seems Insta-perfect but if you were to zoom out of the heavily filtered picture, you’d see reality strike.
Millie is a single mother, with a cute son called Wolfie, whose father is absolutely useless and not much on the scene. Instagram and the profile she has built up online is more ‘best lie’ than ‘best life’. It isn’t until Millie and Bell’s paths finally cross that the two women begin to understand what is real and what it is that they really want.

Rating: three-stars

 

“Living My Best Li(f)e” follows the nearly 40 years – old Bell and a little younger Millie. Bell’s relationship of ten years has just fallen apart and she’s in a slump, and seeing the glamorous and wonderful lives of other people in social media obviously doesn’t help. That is, until she meets Millie, who is social media influencer. Her Instagram feed, with photos of her gorgeous son and brilliant clothes, provided with “hashtag blessed”, is unceasingly popular. The two women instantly click and they form a strong friendship.

I’ve been waiting impatiently to read this book and was over the moon the receive my review copy few months ago and started to read it immediately. However, sadly, it turned out that it wasn’t for me. I had a feeling that it simply is a book out of thousands of others, with nothing really special to make it unique. I really liked the concept – we all know we shouldn’t believe in everything we see online but still, we so easily like to get sucked into the glamour of social media – the idea and potential were there but it lacked in development and execution. There were also too many subplots for my liking and none of it was treated with enough depth.

I didn’t warm to the characters, to be honest, not sure why, they just simply didn’t work for me and I didn’t find them too believable. Bell is about to turn 40 and thinks her life is running smoothly, until the moment her boyfriend decides to leave her after many years of being together. Millie is in her mid – thirties and is a single mother, after falling in love with a football star Louis and then realizing that he’s the most unreliable father in the world (but who names their child Wolf?) Millie is also the so – called influencer, showing her followers world full of expensive dresses that she has to return to the shop because she can’t afford them, and lovely photos of Wolf before he throws a tantrum, but nobody must know this, right? There were also background characters, but they were too absent from the story for me to remember them. The friendship between Bell and Millie happened so quickly that I had a feeling that I’ve missed something.

All the sub plots were so easy resolved and things happened very conveniently, and also very unexpectedly, like the problem with the community centre that appeared just like that, out of the blue. The storyline was a rather predictable one however I liked the writing style and the message hidden between the lines.

Nevertheless, it was a heart – warming, uplifting and easily written story with many important topics running through it, touching upon love and hope, heartbreak, bullying, loneliness. However, even with those heavier topics, it still stays a feel good story with a friendship in the background and a feeling of belonging and togetherness. There is also the message in regards to social media, and it’s really nice that the author has picked it as a guiding theme of her debut novel.

If You Were Here by Alice Peterson / Blog Tour + Extract

Alice Peterson has let us wait two years for her new book but guys, the waiting was so worth it! She’s back with another cracker, heart – wrenching but also uplifting story that I loved from the beginning to the end. Thank you so much Alice for having me on the blog tour, it’s always such an honour! Today, next to my (a bit gushing, even if I say so myself) review, I also have an extract from the book – enjoy!

 

If You Were Here by Alice Peterson

 

Publisher: Simon & Schuster 44589427

Publishing Date: 22nd August 2019

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 464

Genre: General Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

‘I can toast to my future, but the thundercloud over my head, the threat of a storm, will follow me like a shadow wherever I go. The truth is, I have a potential bomb in my bag, and who knows when or where it will go off’

When her daughter Beth dies suddenly, Peggy Andrews is left to pick up the pieces and take care of her granddaughter Flo. But sorting through Beth’s things reveals a secret never told: Beth was sick, with the same genetic condition that claimed her father’s life, and now Peggy must decide whether to keep the secret or risk destroying her granddaughter’s world.

Five years later, Flo is engaged and ready to pack up her life and move to New York with her high-flying fiancé. Peggy never told Flo what she discovered, but with Flo looking towards her future, Peggy realises it’s time to come clean and reveal that her granddaughter’s life might also be at risk.

As Flo struggles to decide her own path, she is faced with the same life-altering questions her mother asked herself years before: If a test could decide your future, would you take it?

An emotional, inspiring and uplifting novel about living life to the fullest, IF YOU WERE HERE will break your heart and put it back together. The brand new novel from the acclaimed author of A Song for Tomorrow, perfect for fans of Hannah Beckerman, Dani Atkins and Jill Mansell

Rating: five-stars

 

“If You Were Here”, another life – affirming story by Alice Peterson, introduces us to three generations of women. Peggy lost her husband to Huntington’s Disease, after years of caring for him and watching him deteriorate, both mentally and physically. Her daughter Beth, who we hear from through her diary entries after learning that she’s dead, following a road accident 5 years ago, was aware that her chances of inheriting the disease was fifty – fifty and who has done the test but kept it in secret, and who has been left in turmoil, not being able to decide if/when to tell about it her own daughter. And Flo, twenty seven years old, loving her life, setting to move to America following her new fiancé there. However, her life is shattered after discovering that her granddad and mother had Huntington’s Disease, and what consequences could this information have for her: she could also be a carrier and must decide whether to take the test telling her her fate. Flo is about to learn, not only about her family, but who her real friends are and, most importantly, about herself and her limits. 

Let me tell you right at the beginning – it was a beautiful, realistic story that had me hooked from the first page – I couldn’t put it down, to be honest, and was cursing life getting in the way, as I didn’t want to leave the characters’ world for a single second, and you’ll also not want to put the book away. 

The story is told from three perspectives, from Flo, her grandmother Peggy and through Beth’s diary entries, and I loved each of the voices, so strong and so distinctive. Alice Peterson’s heroines are always inspiring, and Flo is not an exception. It was heart – breaking to see the battle the two women, Peggy and Beth, had to endure, wanting to protect their beloved Flo, never finding the right time to tell her the truth, filled with mixed feelings and emotions. They were all so brave and strong, had their ups and downs, made wrong decisions and they simply felt so down to earth realistic, as well as the background characters. Each of them experiences the disease in another way but all of them are affected, and the author gives us a wide and deep glimpse into it. The feelings and emotions jump out of the pages, you laugh with the characters and you cry with them, I’ve kept everything crossed for them all and simply lived their lives together with them. Great part of this book focuses on heartbreak and guilt of not telling the truth, but you never judge the characters for it, you simply start to understand them and their choices, as the author gives them their own point of view. I loved how much the characters in this book supported each other – boy, you need such a group of friends and family in your life even when life doesn’t challenge you!

 It was again a book that made me think, and there were many moments when I found myself wondering, but especially one scene made me so pensive, when the first research study led to the possibility of real HD treatments in December 2017. Flo and Beth, sobbing on the phone with joy, their friends sharing the news – it actually gave me  goose bumps. For me it was such a normal day, I’ve probably haven’t even apprehended the news, and for people like our characters, and for real people all over the world, it is life changing information, giving hope. Here I am, sitting and enjoying my good health with exception of few bumps perhaps, not appreciating it enough, and here they are, crying from joy. I’ve been constantly asking myself what would I do if I were in the characters’ shoes, what decisions would I made, and I still am not sure. I was always thinking that I would like to know what future is going to bring me but now, after reading the book, I am really not certain. Actually, I am torn. Would I change the way I am if I knew I have some genetic disorder? Or would it make me back away from life? It really isn’t an easy decision to make!  

I totally loved the way the author has chosen to tell about all the pros and cons of being tested to find out if you have Huntington’s. She isn’t judging but she allows us a deep glance into all the possibilities, describing how many feelings and emotions are involved in it, how, in fact, hard and difficult decision it is. It so much depends on the person itself, while many live their lives without the need to know, there are others who simply must find out what fate has in store for them. Also, how much this decisions affects family and friends – written with so much understanding, gentleness and heart. 

The writing is, as always, beautiful but not too sentimental, and I loved it. It is also full of humour and the way the author balances it with the more poignant moments is absolutely perfect. It’s written with compassion and sensitivity, right from the heart and the amount of research that went into this book is clear, and I love the fact that Alice Peterson has again found a case to raise awareness of. She writes with such warmth and love, care and empathy and the novel, even though touching about serious issues, feels chatty and uplifting, even when she tells things how they really are, not sparing us any details about the facts and reality of HD.

“If You Were Here” was full of hope. It’s this kind of novel that make you look at the world differently again, start to appreciate all the little things again. The telling is so rich and vivid, oozing in feelings and emotions of courage, faith and strength, also showing the great importance of having the right network of people around you to help you get through the most difficult times. I loved every single moment of it and will be highly recommending right and left!

 

EXTRACT:

Prologue

Peggy

 

July 2012

 

I clutch the letter, my hand shaking.

Deep down I always knew. I was just waiting for Beth to tell me, gearing myself up to be strong for us both all over again.

There were times when I sensed she was distant and anxious. Often I wondered why my daughter hadn’t married since any man would have been lucky to have her by his side. Yet I allowed myself to believe her excuse that she simply hadn’t met the right person, that she wanted to focus on her art, her teaching career and being a mother to Flo.

I have skated around the subject for years, too much of a coward to ask the question I dreaded the answer to. I locked my fears in a box and threw away the key, instead forcing myself to believe she’d escape the odds.

Looking back over the pas few years, I was beginning to notice signs, small things, like Beth forgetting our regular weekly call. Once, she locked herself out of the house and had to drive over to get my spare set of keys. I was determined to put it down to her being scatterbrained. Yet there was this persistent voice inside my head.

She could have it.

A voice I chose to ignore.

I look down at the letter once more.

It would kill me.

I wish now with all my heart that I could take back those selfish words. All I wanted was to protect Beth – and myself – from further pain.

I wipe the tears from my eyes.

Right now, I’d give anything to be able to hold my daughter one last time and tell her how sorry I am for letting her down. And what I wouldn’t give to be able to ask her the questions I need answering now like never before.

Did she ever intend for her daughter Flo to see this letter? Maybe, in the end, Beth agreed that none of us should know our future, that we’re better off letting fate take its course.

I can’t tell my granddaughter.

She is far too fragile, not only to discover that this has been kept a secret from her, but to understand the impact it could have on her own life. She is grieving for her mother and it’s taking every ounce of her strength just to get through each day. Showing her this letter would only rake up the past and make Flo fear her future. Yet the decision to keep on hiding the truth doesn’t rest easy either.

I tear a small corner of the letter, tempted to rip it into shreds and pretend I’d never seen it.

I wish in so many ways I hadn’t.

If I show Flo the letter it could break her heart. But if I don’t . . .

What a fool I have been to think that the past never catches up with you.

1

Flo

 

Five years later

 

As I walk down Fifth Avenue, to the mystery place where I’m meeting Theo tonight, I think back on the past week, wishing  Ididn’t have to pack my bags and return to London tomorrow, back to my job and familiar oldroutine.

My boyfriend Theo has been based in New York  for  sixmonths.

‘Long distance relationships can work, Flo, if we see it as an opportunity,’ he’d said, when he broke the news that he was needed over here for a year, possibly more.

And he was right. There is something magnetic about this city. It buzzes with energy, like a party that never stops.The first time I flew over to see Theo, we visited all the major sights and did all the things you’re supposed to, like taking a trip to the top of the empire State Building and hopping on a ferry over to Staten Island. Now I’m happy to do my own thing, whiling away the hours with my sketch- pad in Central Park, or finding hidden gems off the beaten track, like the original piece of the Berlin Wall I discovered in a small plaza at MadisonAvenue.

Each time I visit – mainly for long weekends – Theo takes me to a new exhibition or restaurant that has justopened.

Nothing stays the same here. Nothing stands still.

And everything is so tall. Theo works in just one of the thousand dazzling skyscrapers that grace the Manhattan skyline.

I dodge out of the way of a group of tourists taking pic- tures of the empire State Building. Another thing I love about this place is it keeps me fit. There’s no point hailing a cab and spending a fortune sitting in traffic. Everyone here walks for miles.

As I continue down one of the most famous and elegant streets in the world, I think of Granny, hoping she’s all right.  It’s the anniversary of Mum’s death today and it’s the first time we’ve spent it apart. When I called her earlier this evening, she told me she was fine and that she’d laid some flowers on Mum and Granddad’s gravestone and would later light a candle.

I promised to light one too.

In many ways Mum’s death feels a lifetime ago, but in others as if it were only yesterday. What tormented me most is the fact I didn’t have the chance to say goodbye. My last conversation with her was over the phone, while I was at the airport in Venice about to board a plane. I was blissfully happy in a steady relationship and I’d just been offered a job designing sets for a small theatre company in Copenhagen. The only problem was my scatty old mum.

‘What now?’ I’d snapped, annoyed at having to repeat the conversation we’d literally just had about what time my plane landed and whether I’d be home in time for supper.

I never saw her again.

I didn’t even tell her I loved her.

That’s what I miss most: picking up the phone to talk to her; hearing her voice.

Her death had seemed so avoidable.One moment she was alive, but the next . ..

‘It was an accident,’ Granny had stressed. ‘A tragic accident that makes no sense.’

Losing Mum will be the hardest thing I’ll ever go through. At one point I didn’t even want to live, oblivion seemed preferable. Idon’t know what I’d have done without Granny picking me up and piecing me back together again, especially when her grief must have been just asraw.

I can’t tell you when I began to feel less broken. I don’t recall a turning point. All I know is that food began to taste of something again. Slowly I noticed the sunlight streaming through my bedroom window. I heard the birds sing. My steps began to feel lighter.

And then along came Theo.

We met eighteen months ago in the business lounge at Gatwick airport, when I was heading out on a work trip to southern Spain. I was busy stocking up on all the food and glossy magazines the business lounge had to offer, when I sensed someone watching me. Discreetly, I turned to see an older, fair-haired man drinking a cup of coffee, a flicker of amusement in his eyes. Everything about him spelt success, from his designer suit to his leather briefcase and expensive watch. I returned to my seat, thinking he must have been looking at someone else, or recalling a funny joke he’d just been told.

But then he approached my table.

‘Theodore Holmes,’ he said, sitting down opposite me,as if it were the most natural thing in the world to introduce oneself to a stranger. Before I could say a word, he continued, ‘I don’t know your name yet, but what I do know is I’m going to spend the rest of my life withyou.’

It’s not often I’m lost for words. I felt out of my depth, and as if he could read my mind he leaned closer towards me and said quietly ,‘Listen,I’m sorry to come on so strong. You don’t have to agree to spend the rest of your life with me just yet, but how aboutdinner?’

He handed me his business card. We parted with a hand- shake, almost as if we were in a boardroom.

‘Deal,’ I was tempted to say.

For the next few days, I imagined our perfect first date with flowers and champagne, the conversation flowing freely, the evening ending with a romantic goodnight kiss. When I returned home, however, I began to lose my nerve, that little voice of doubt creeping in.

After Mum died, I broke up with my long-term boyfriend and I hadn’t been in a serious relationship since. Ifelt out of practice.

As if he’s really going to be interested in you, Flo. It meant nothing. He probably says the same thing t oevery woman he meets and he won’t even remember you.

But despite that voice in my head, I couldn’t throw away his business card.

James – my flat-mate and best friend’s brother – looked him up online with me one evening afterwork.

‘Good-looking,’ he said when we saw a picture of Theo smiling broadly into the camera, ‘but knows it.  Mind you, I’d be smiling like that too if I had his teeth and his bankaccount.’

James is a vet, which, according to him is ‘not a job you do for the money’.

He urged me to give Theo a call. ‘What’s the worst that can happen? It’s one night, and if he’s a knob, move on.’

I smiled. James always had a way with words. Anyway, I took his advice and called.

Theo picked up instantly, and when I said my name, asking nervously if it was a good time for him to talk, he replied, ‘I’ve been waiting for days. ever since I first set eyes on you.’

I was still hesitant to go on a date. I wasn’t sure I trusted his smooth talk, but I listened to James again, who told meI hadnothing to lose except one evening of takeaway, Netflix, and James’s charming company.

On our first date, Theo booked a table at a restaurant on the 32nd floor of the Shard, and over dinner I discovered he left school without any qualifications, but through hard work and self-belief he was now CeO of a company called ASPIre, one of the biggest global marketing agencies in the world.I tried to ignore that little voice again that wondered why he’d want to go out with someone like me, a mere travel agent, when surely he could have the pick of anyone in thisrestaurant.

When Theo asked me for a second and a third date, that voice stillwouldn’t go away. I kept expecting something to go wrong; I was waiting for the fall. Yet my fear has been pointless, and after eighteen months together that little voice has almost disappeared.

Almost.

I rummage in my handbag to retrieve the note Theo left on my pillow this morning, with the exact address of where I’m supposed to meet him.

‘It’sasurprise,’he’dinsisted.He’sawareit’sMum’sanniversary today and wanted to do something to honour it, so I suggested we do something fun: drink cocktails, go to a nightclub and dance until the early hours of themorning.

‘Mum loved dancing,’ I said. ‘She used to dance in the kitchen and sing in the shower.’

I told  him I wanted to remember all the happy times we’d shared and celebrate her life tonight, because for the first time in five years I haven’t only been thinking about Mum today. This morning, when I woke up in Theo’s apartment and read his note, I realized that time does slowly heal, and that right now, despite everything, I am truly happy.

As I arrive I see no sign of a restaurant or bar. I glance at my watch. It’s past seven o’clock.

Theo’s late. He’s never late.

For a split second I feel uneasy. I wish I knew why he was being so secretive. He knows how much I hate surprises. But my worries vanish the moment I see him across the street, and soon I’m in his arms, welcoming his kiss.

‘Are you ready?’ he asks.

‘Ready for what? Where are we —’

‘Trust me,’ he says, a smile spreading across his face as he holds his hand out towards mine. I know more than most how happiness can be taken away from us as quickly as it was found. But I know,too,that it’s time for me to let go of my past and trust in my future once and for all. It’s what Mum would have wanted.

I take his hand.

Maybe I’m allowed to be this happy without a catch afterall.

 

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