Blog tour and 4 Star Book Review “The Story after Us” by Fiona Perrin #LoveBooksGroupTours

story-after-us

Sometimes the end is really the beginning….

Living in flats in the same building, Amelia and Lars are a couple starting out on life together with big dreams for their careers, marriage, a home and family.  They are in love and excited by all that life has in store for them.  Lars is improving his English, Ami is making headway in her career and they spend evenings in cheap eateries with friends Liv and Thor drinking house wine and laughing away the time.

Real life can have a habit of getting in the way of life dreams.  The children, Tess and Finn are born, business opportunities and commitments take Lars away more and more often, Ami is given the backing to set up her own advertising company.  But at home the laughter is being replaced with raised angry voices, the love is being replaced by resentment and mistrust and the perfect family is actually a normal family with all the stresses and joys that come with it.

Young Tess has become preoccupied with death and Ami finds herself called in to school to discuss her daughter’s playtime funeral processions.  The realisation that their lives have reached crisis point hits Ami when she returns home to find her son “buried” under a pile of cushions as her daughter conducts a funeral with the au pair nowhere in sight.  On pulling out her young son from near suffocation, Ami knows that something must change but she is still blindsided by her husband’s actions.

Thanks to Kelly at Love Book Group Tours for the opportunity to be part of this blog tour!

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This is a contemporary novel that tackles the difficulties of modern-day life – with particular focus on the breakdown of a marriage.  The chapters alternate between the current day (2017) and the start of Ami and Lars relationship in 2007, painting a picture of the development of a relationship running alongside its future breakdown.  Eventually the historical chapters have caught up with present day, and as such the author forces her characters to accept what is happening to them.

Ami is a strong central character, even when she is at her lowest ebb.  Her emotions are always just beneath her surface veneer and at times are so palpable.  I think that the author writes with sensitivity and clarity when showing us Ami’s hurt – hurt caused by those closest to her which can feel like betrayal – her husband, her parents, her boss.  Yet her own self-belief and love for her children keeps her swimming against the currents threatening to overwhelm her.

The cast of characters is colourful and very human.  I love Ami’s best friend Liv and the humour that she brings to every situation.  She is responsible for a potential big new client for Ami’s struggling agency, although her intent during a drunken conversation was to actually set her pal up on a blind date!  This introduces Ben – another interesting character with his own baggage, a broken marriage and children in a foreign country.  Young Tess and Finn are delightful, and the author puts words into these little mouths that any parent will smile at.  The grandparents also pay such an important role – I love Lars’ mother Ulrika and her “cold” house – and demonstrate that extended family, whether fully present or not, influence family life.  As a mum I couldn’t help byt laugh at the descriptions of the school gate, the relationships between the mothers and I love the descriptions of the Smugums!!  I definitely came into contact with them and saw the looks of disbelief and pity when I failed to wake up from a night shift to collect my kids from school!

There is a lot of sadness in witnessing this relationship breakdown and whilst I was routing for Ami and Lars, it became hard to see a way back from their difficulties.  The author asks how often a marriage continues after the love has gone – not that initial heady, lustful love but the deep love that grows and develops over time for a partner.  How may relationships are based on loving a partner for being the parent of your child, but no longer loving them for being themselves?  I found myself feeling a whole range of emotions as I followed Ami on her journey – but will give no spoilers as to how things work out for her and Lars.

A very modern tale reflecting current life so well – the good times alongside the difficult and never shying away from the emotive, aspects of modern relationships. Funny, engaging and poignant, I thoroughly enjoyed this book, found it easy to read and definitely recommend it.

4 stars!

Available from

Amazon:

Barnes and Noble

WHSmith

About the Author

Fiona was a journalist and copywriter before building a career as a sales and
marketing director in industry. Having always written, she completed the Curtis
Brown Creative Writing course before writing The Story After Us.FionaPerrin author pic 2meg
As a mother and stepmother to four teenagers while holding down a fairly full-on job,
she wanted to write grown-up commercial fiction about messy, modern love and
families – with all their heartbreak, humour and hope.
She grew up in Cornwall, hung out for a long time in London and then Hertfordshire,
and now she writes as often as possible from her study overlooking the sea at the
end of the Lizard Peninsula, back in Cornwall. She’s currently there, writing her
second novel for Aria.

Find Fiona here:

Website – www.fionaperrin.com

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Book Review and Blog Tour for “The Water and The Wine” by Tamar Hodes #LoveBooksGroupTours

water-wine

Many thanks to LoveBooksGroup and Kelly for the opportunity to be part of this blog tour.

It is the 1960s and a group of young writers and artists gather on the Greek island of Hydra. Leonard Cohen is at the start of his career and in love with Marianne, who is also muse to her ex-husband, Axel. Australian authors George Johnston and Charmian Clift write, drink and fight. It is a hedonistic time of love, sex and new ideas.

As the island hums with excitement, Jack and Frieda Silver and their young family join the community, hoping to mend their broken marriage. However, Greece is overtaken by a military junta and the artistic idyll is threatened.

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There will be few keen readers who have not heard of Leonard Cohen and his infamous muses, but I confess that I knew very little of the artistic community on Hydra in 1960s beyond this.  I have always been fascinated by the likes of Virginia Woolf’s Bloomsbury set, so the premise and promise of this novel immediately had appeal for me.  Whilst reading the novel, I have also done some background reading of the many articles available describing the actual artistic community and the island of Hydra through the 1950s, 60s and into the Greek Military Junta (the Regime of the Colonels) of 1967-74.

It is clear that the author draws on her own memories and experiences as a child living on this idyllic island and she has also researched the period and characters in great detail.  However the reader must remember that this is a fictional work depicting the lives of real people and Ms Hodes does not pretend that the thoughts and actions of the characters are those of the real people.  This is a difficult balance to strike in such cases to be both engaging and interesting, without rewriting history.

Tamar on Hydra

Tamar on Hydra as a child

I loved this novel and probably read it too quickly in order to write this review!  The beauty of the island, the scenery and the way of life are captured in this well crafted piece.  To be able to feel the warmth of the sun on your skin and to taste the lemons used in the food and drink, for me indicates that the writing is descriptive and realistic.  The pace is slow and charming, encapsulating the life being lead by both the Greek locals and the expat community of artists.  Ordinary elements of life are catapulted into something extraordinary.

Human relationships are central to this plot – those of lovers, spouses, the artist and muse, families, friends.  The female characters are strong throughout from the “real” Charmiane and Marianne to the “fictional” Frieda to the Greek women such as Evgeniya, Maria and Kyria Sophia.  These wonderful Greek ladies are recognised and praised for their devotion and hard work whilst in the employ of the expats – as maids, nannies and eventually becoming extended loved and trusted family.  They might have shaken their heads and not understood the way of life that these brightly coloured artists pursued, but they cared for them with wonderful home cooking, maintaining their homes and loving their children.

The complex myriad of human emotions are explored, particularly intense in the lover/muse/triangle relationship of Leonard Cohen, Marianne and her ex husband Axel.  Both men are writers are in this tale they share many traits – I am not sure whether they are typical of a writer or not, but have witnessed something of their emotion and devotion to their art in my own teenage daughter when she is drawing and painting.  Forgetting to eat, to being unable to concentrate on normal life and to pouring everything into the creative process.  I found the dedication to their work both fascinating and bewildering in equal measures – yet I can understand the passion for work that one loves, as I was like this about head and neck cancer nursing and palliative care!

I have read an article by one lady who knew these real people in the 1970s and I do understand that some who were there might find it presumptuous to imagine the feelings and thoughts of real people, some still living.  But Ms Tamar is clear from the outset that this is a work of fiction, and in my opinion it deserves to be read slowly to immerse oneself in what is clearly a rather lovely work of literature.

Five stars!

The book is currently available on Kindle at Amazon for just £1.79! Click on image….

About the Author

Tamar HodesGrowing up, Tamar Hodes’ neighbours were Leonard Cohen, his girlfriend Marianne, and other writers and artists on the Greek island of Hydra. Her parents took her to the island to pursue their own art and writing. However the bohemian nature of Hydra destroyed their marriage. The Water and the Wine is a fictional account of those days.;Tamar Hodes’ first novel Raffy’s Shapes was published in 2006. She has had stories on Radio 4 and others in anthologies including Salt’s The Best British Short Stories 2015, The Pigeonhole, Your One Phone Call, the Ofi Press, MIR online and Fictive Dream. Tamar was born in Israel and lived in Greece and South Africa before settling in the UK. She read English and Education at Homerton College, Cambridge. For the past thirty-three years she has taught English in schools, universities and prisons.

Find Tamar on:

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and at:

HookLine Books: Website &  Twitter

 

Further reading:

Leonard Cohen Forum

Australian Bohemians on Hydra

A Pilgrimage to Leonard Cohen’s Greek Island Retreat

 

 

 

 

 

Blog Tour and Book Review – Chasing Petalouthes, The Gift Saga by Effie Kammenou #LoveBooksGroupTours

I am delighted to be part of the Blog Tour for the final book in The Gift Saga trilogy Chasing Petalouthes.

EG & WFA Facebook-Twitter 1

Chasing Petalouthes – butterflies – is the final book in this wonderful family saga following the generations of Greek families as they settle in New York.  In this chapter, the younger generation – third generation – are followed through teens, adolescence and young adulthood.

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Evvie, daughter of Sophia,  has experienced more tragedy than a young girl should ever endure, having lost both her father and a most beloved grandmother at a young age. Her rebellious ways are her only defense to mask the ever-present pain in her heart. Closing herself off emotionally, Evvie enters college life with a determination to follow her chosen path alone.  She might be a talented young dancer, like her mother, but her love for the family vineyard is strong and she discovers just how much she wants this life on a visit to France.  Her determination to work and grow her family business is tested over these tender years as relationships develop and difficult choices must be made.  She also begins to understand her Greek routes, the legacy of the soil and vines that is within her blood, during a visit to her great grandmother, Yiayia Sophia in Athens.

During this time Evvie remains resolute that she will not allow her emotions to sway her – she will not allow her heart to open up to love.  Even when a trip to the Greek island Cephalonia, with Yiayia Sophia, seems to show her where her true happiness and future could lie, she denies herself and a certain young man who she has known since college.

Stella, Demi’s daughter, is two years Evvie’s junior and struggling at high school to “fit in”.  She has a crush on a fellow student, and whilst he is happy to take her to Prom and will stand up for her honour, he makes it clear that Stella is not the girl for him whilst they are growing up.  She is the sort of girl who needs a steady relationship – a happy ever after – he tells her, and he is not ready for this.  Whilst Stella appreciates his honesty, at 16 this is a harsh truth to hear and she experiences betrayal from a friend during this time.  Meanwhile it feels to Stella that her siblings and cousins are all talented and achieving their dreams, whilst she enters college and drifts from one course to another with no real puprose.

She is insecure, a little naive and has no idea just how attractive she is.  Stella is smitten when an older, handsome, worldly young man shows interest in her and she believes that she has found love. But as his behaviour becomes more and more controlling, Stella’s family and friends become concerned that Stella has fallen into an abusive relationship.  Will she accept the situation and the help on offer before something terrible happens? 

“Chasing Petalouthes (Chasing Butterflies) is the coming of age story of two flawed, young women who push their way out from the confines of the cocoons they’d built around themselves and discover how to soar.”

I am going to start by saying what I always do…..please read the first two books in the series and set on a journey with these characters.  You might have read my reviews for Evanthia’s Gift and Waiting for Aegina and will already know how much I have enjoyed this series.  In fact I will go so far as to say that I feel emotionally invested in the characters.

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My greatest enjoyment from the trilogy has been the continuing story of the generations of women from two families and friends that become one : Anastacia, her daughter Sophia and granddaughter Evvie;  Soula, her daughter Demi and grandaughter Stella; close friends, the Honeyhill girls, and their children.  The roles of these strong leading women has been quite inspirational and I see the driving force of the family in the strong Greek woman, who loves to feed her family in my own great friend Evi.

This chapter of the story examines the adolescent years of the younger generation and the author shares the highs and the lows with brutal honesty.  Emotions run high as a teen/early twenty something and we have all experienced the intense joy and sadness that come with the smallest of experiences.  The young ladies in this tale are no different to any others and they feel intensely.  As a palliative care nurse in my previous life, I was particularly interested in Evvie and how the author dealt with her grief.  Something I learnt early in my nurse training (whilst losing many young men in our London taching hospital to Aids in the late 80s) is that there is no “right” way for grief, no timeline, no “one fit for all”.  Yes, there is the Kubler Ross stages of grief, but everyone is so different and Ms Kammenou depicts this beautifully with Evvie.

By the time she is a teen, this young lady has experienced major loss and in order to deal with this she has built an emotional wall around herself.  To the outside world her moods and strange wardrobe choices might seem like those of a “difficult, hormonal” teen, but they are so much more than this.  I applaud the author for her handling and eventual breakdown of Evvie’s grief,  the way in which she slowly realises that she cannot protect herself from the possibility of pain and loss – and in fact in the process may be denying herself love and joy.

Difficult topics are once again tackled in this family saga – suicide, depression and mental health, domestic abuse, death, bereavement.  Perhaps this list should also include falling in love, sexuality & sexual relationships, and the complexities of family life.  Both Stella and Evvie are great role models as they experience the highs and some extreme lows of growing up (no spoilers!), and both come out the other side as mature, more confident and happy young women.  I am not going to say that they have grown up – I’m not sure that we ever finish growing up and I believe that Yiayia Sophia shows us this in her observations of her life.

I could write so much more here, but I think the important thing is to say that I loved it just as much as the first tow books, and I really didn’t want it to end…..surely there must be another chapter waiting in the wings about young Cia, Ms Kammenou?  There are delicious recipes peppered throughout the book, including some French treats when Evvie is dancing in Paris – there is even a recipe for the delicious lemon chicken and potatoes that my own dear Evi makes.  But my kids say that I could never compete!

Five stars for this engrossing, beautifully written contemporary family saga.

Available from:

Amazon

About the Author

Effie Kammenou is a believer that it is never too late to chase your dreams, follow your heart or change your career. She is proof of that. At one time, long ago, she’d thought that, by her age, she would have had an Oscar in her hand after a successful career as an actor. Instead, she worked in the optical field for 40 years and is the proud mother of two accomplished young women.cover photo 2

Her debut novel, Evanthia’s Gift, is a women’s fiction multigenerational love story and family saga, influenced by her Greek heritage, and the many real life accounts that have been passed down. She continues to pick her father’s brain for stories of his family’s life in Lesvos, Greece, and their journey to America. Her interview with him was published in a nationally circulated magazine.

Evanthia’s Gift: Book One in The Gift Saga was a 2016 award finalist in the Readers Favorite Awards in the Women’s Fiction category.  Waiting for Aegina is Book Two in The Gift Saga and Chasing Petalouthes is Kammenou’s latest release, completing the series.

Effie Kammenou is a first generation Greek-American who lives on Long Island with her husband and two daughters. When she’s not writing, or posting recipes on her food blog, cheffieskitchen.wordpress.com, you can find her entertaining family and friends or traveling for ‘research.’

As an avid cook and baker, a skill she learned from watching her Athenian mother, she incorporated traditional Greek family recipes throughout the books.

She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Theater Arts from Hofstra University.

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The latest in The Lambeth Group series – Book Review “Tears of Fire” by Gordon Bickerstaff

When given the opportunity to read the next book in The Lambeth Group series, I couldn’t refuse as I had loved the others. The opening scenes start with the female lead Zoe Tampsin apparently about to lose her life have finally been brought to “justice” by an elite group of British statesmen. A death sentence hangs over her…
Tears of Fire Pin

However it would not be a Lambeth Group thriller if Ms Tampsin and her partner, scientist Gavin Shawlins were not at the centre of the plot. They are soon embroiled separately in the same case – involving the health clinic of one Dr Traherne and his “employees” nurses Seng and Jung. It becomes apparent that these ladies are not the average caring nurses one would expect to find in a hospital!

This fast moving drama draws in the CIA, the British government and North Korea – just for starters. Zoe and Gavin suddenly find that it is not only their lives that could be in danger as they delve into a web of mass murders, revenge killings and international political relations – their own loved ones have become targets and they must make some difficult decisions to bring down the antagonists, but also to keep their families safe. No spoilers!!

If you have read my previous reviews, you will know that I have become a huge Gordon Bickerstaff fan – and this book does not disappoint! It really is action packed from the start, and whilst it could be read as a stand alone, I can’t recommend enough that you read the previous books to understand the back story for the characters. I might have mentioned once or twice before that I really admire the choice of such a gutsy, strong female character to lead the cast and she is joined again by Joss, the equally ballsy female CIA agent who has featured before.

The antagonists are also extremely strong women from a very different culture. I like the way that the author generates a very different feeling in the reader for these women though – they are repugnant in their ruthless actions, their motivation and their complete lack of compassion for anyone who gets in their way. Yet they are prepared to “hide” in plain sight as carers, people to be trusted, and even in this role they will exploit the vulnerable for monetary gain under the guise of euthanasia.

In each book of this series, Gavin Shawlins has grown in character for me. He is becoming more sure of himself, having faith in his convictions and pushing himself beyond his fears. I enjoyed seeing a new strength of character when he feared for the safety of his niece, but also watching his relationship with Zoe continue to grow in trust and mutual respect. The drama and pace are present from the opening chapter of this book right up until the thrilling finale, and Gavin proves h
is value to Zoe once more – although she might not admit to this!

Think of action packed political and spy investigative thrillers (Bond, Mission Impossible, Jack Ryan, Spooks), put a woman in the driving action hero role and follow the twists and turns – this is the speed and intrigue of the latest Lambeth Group thriller. I was hooked from start to finish and was genuinely taken by surprise as some of the plot twists revealed themselves. Really great read that I thoroughly recommend!

Thanks to The Book Club on Facebook and the author for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for a fair and honest review

Available from

 “Readers’ Favorite” GOLD medal winner in Fiction-Thriller-Conspiracy Thriller

About the Author

GFB picI was born and raised in Glasgow but spent my student years in Edinburgh. On summer vacations, I learned plumbing, garden maintenance, and I cut the grass in the Meadows. If I ran the lawnmower over your toes – sorry.

I learned some biochemistry and taught it for a while before I retired to write fiction. I like DIY and I do some aspects of DIY moderately well and other aspects not so well. I live with my wife in Scotland where corrupt academics, mystery, murder and intrigue exists mostly in my mind.

I write the Gavin Shawlens series of thrillers: Deadly Secrets, Everything To Lose, The Black Fox, Toxic Minds and Tabula Rasa. They feature special investigators Zoe and Gavin. More will come in due course.

I enjoy walking in the hills, 60s & 70s music, reading and travel.

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Book Review of Anna Mazzola’s atmospheric thriller “The Story Keeper”

The year is 1857 and a young woman has escaped her father’s home in London to travel alone to the Isle of Skye. With fond memories of holidays spent on the Scottish island with her late mother, Audrey Hart has applied for the position of assistant to an elderly woman who collects and documents the folk tales of the local people. Very quickly Audrey starts to encounter strange happenings on Skye as several young women disappear in extraordinary circumstances, which local people link to folklore tales and beliefs. The fear and suspicions of the people prevent them from speaking honestly with Audrey, but she is drawn to uncovering what has happened to these girls and also to explore her own mother’s death nearly 20 years ago. Unwittingly Audrey is about to wade into an intricate web of secrets, lies and human stories.
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The Story Keeper Book Review

Anna Mazzola is a new name to me, but the description of this historic novel and the beautiful cover picture drew me to it. I should know better right – judging a book by its cover?! But from the outset this novel did not disappoint.

The style of writing is descriptive and atmospheric giving a real feeling of the extremities of an isolated, windswept Scottish isle in the nineteenth century. The landscapes are bleak, the weather tough and at times I could both feel and taste the surroundings. For a Londoner like Audrey the Isle of Skye is both a shock and yet invitingly different in its isolation – she wanted to embrace the huge changes in her surroundings and learn to understand how to live so far from mainland civilization.

Bubbling beneath the surface of the novel is an undercurrent of dark, Gothic suspense. In true Victorian style there are sinister brooding characters and an old, ghostly mansion where the elderly folklore collector resides. The story would not be complete without some paranormal incidents and inexplicable events which seem to be deeply entwined with the old folklore. But alongside this the author writes with historical knowledge and integrity as she describes the consequences of the Highland Clearances of the 18th and 19th centuries – absentee landlords, the poverty of the crofting communities, the disease and a failing economy.

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Ms Mazzola gave the lead roles to strong women, despite the era being patriarchal, and the main character Audrey grows in strength and stature throughout the novel. She knows her own mind – she is not deterred by the initial reluctance of the locals to accept her nor by the difficulties she encounters in trying to solve some mysteries surrounding the death of her own mother on Skye years before. Audrey fights against the constraints of Victorian society from the time she escapes London and the reasons for running, to the inaccurate assumptions made about her by the men on Skye.

Initially I wasn’t sure that I could get into the book, but within several chapters and the brewing of mystery, I was hooked. There are twists and turns throughout, some directly linked to local folklore and others to the characters and location, and enough suspense to drive the novel forward to some surprising conclusions.

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Picture from WrittenbyMorgan on Paperblog.com (see article below)

 

It may even tempt you to visit Skye yourself – I particularly enjoyed reading about one blogger’s trip with a Scottish backpacking company to the Isle of Skye here!

If you enjoy a historical, atmospheric thriller then this is the book for you. I will be looking for the author’s other novels and this novel comes highly recommended.

4.5 stars!

I was fortunate to be given a copy of this book through TBC on Facebook and Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

About the Author

Anna Mazzola

Anna Mazzola is a writer of historical crime fiction. Her debut novel, The Unseeing, won an Edgar Award in the US and was nominated for the Historical Writers Association Debut Crown in the UK. The Times called it ‘sizzling’. The Mirror described it as ‘a brilliant debut.’

Her second novel, a dark fairy tale about a collector of folklore and missing girls on the Isle of Skye, will be published by Headline in July.

Anna studied English at Pembroke College, Oxford, before accidentally becoming a criminal justice solicitor. She lives in Camberwell, London, with two small children, two cats and one husband.

Find Anna:

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Website: https://annamazzola.com/

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Blog Tour & Book Review “Waiting for Aegina” The Gift Series #LoveBooksGroupTours

waiting for aegina

Many thanks to Kelly and Love Books Group for including me in this book blog tour!

Waiting for Aegina takes us back to the family and friends saga picking up the story where its predecessor, Evanthia’s Gift, left off.

It is the beginning of the 21st century and friends Sophia, Demi, Donna, Amy & Mindy are entering the next stage of their lives – as wives, mothers and business women. Affectionately known as the Honey Hill Girls, after the street where they grew up together, their friendships and love have strengthened with time and different experiences.

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Sophia, now very happily married to childhood sweetheart and Demi’s brother Dean, is still grieving for her mother Ana and worried for her father Alex.  She is also battling with her teen twins from her first marriage, who miss their father since his death and resent her marriage to their “Uncle Dean”, running her successful dance studio and she is heavily pregnant!

Demi has grown from a feisty youngster into a self assured woman, with a Greek fiery temperament and a fiercely protective streak for all those that she loves.  Her children are growing and the business that she runs with her husband Michael and brother, Dean is going from strength to strength – a vineyard that holds weddings and functions in a recently restored Carriage house.  But Demi and Michael are spending more and more time concentrating on their separate areas of the business, and Demi feels estranged from her adored husband and jealous of anyone else spending time with him – particularly his demanding mother!

Donna, the former high school cheerleader/Prom queen married to the football team captain/Prom king, is a teacher with 2 sons.  She has reached her forties and is feeling disillusioned with her marriage as husband Richie lavishes more attention on his sport, car and beer bottle than on Donna and the family.  The attention he focuses on elder son RJ – a keen sportsman like his father – is in direct contrast to the lack of interest that is shown towards younger son Anthony, a sensitive boy who enjoys art, theatre and music.  Donna struggles with her husband’s attitude toward their youngest and his derogatory comments about Anthony’s interests and gentle character.

Amy is now a successful lawyer turned politician, married to Ezra and mother to son Adam.  She is hiding a secret from her past that only Sophia knows – a son born 20 years ago and given up for adoption to a Greek family – but his father is a secret that Amy has never shared.  When her son, Sam, contacts her, Amy is delighted to get to know him through letters and phone calls. But before she has found the right time to tell Ezra and Adam about him or to even meet him face to face, the story has broken in the press that Congresswoman Amy had an illegitimate child and that the father was a now senior Congressman.

Mindy is the only one of the Honey Hill Girls to have never married, having put her soul into the building of her now successful dress design label Bloom.  She has been in love. Nightclub owner Tyler loved Mindy and wanted a life with her, but her long working hours and devotion to her work killed the relationship.  Several years later a chance encounter with Tyler gives Mindy a glimpse of the life that she could have had – marriage and his children.  She takes off to Greece to “grieve” and meets the dashing Apollo, but can this become a long distance relationship or will their differences make it doomed from the start.  As Mindy’s career goes from strength to strength, she despairs that she will never experience in her personal life what friends Sophia and Demi have.

The women’s lives move in different directions but remain intimately connected as they love and support each other through births, love and loss.

My review of the first in the Gift trilogy Evanthia’s Gift can be read here and whilst this book can be read as a stand alone……please, please, please read it as a sequel!  I gave the first book 5 stars and absolutely adored the characters, the settings, and the story telling – so I started the sequel with excitement but also trepidation.  Would it match up to the first novel?  Would I enjoy it as much and feel the characters in the same way?  Would I be inspired?

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Yes, yes, yes!  This book is written around the five friends, whilst the first concentrated on the stories of the first generation Greek families, and each chapter is titled with a different friend’s name – Sophia, Demi, Donna, Amy or Mindy.  Sophia and Demi featured heavily in the first book, so it is lovely to get to know more about the other friends in this novel and the author gives us some more of their back stories whilst delivering the individuality of the characters.  When I feel that I could be friends with a character, that I think about the people as I go about my day to day life and I might even dream about them – then I believe that the author has really succeeded in creating something special.

There were so many aspects of this book that appealed to me – but as a woman of a similar age with growing children, I identify with these women.  I know that the author’s inspiration came from a group of close school friends and a reunion (see her facebook page), and I have also recently returned for a 30 year reunion with both old school friends and my nurse training set.  The feelings reignited with people who you have grown up with or spent informative years of your life cannot be underestimated – it just happens that these women have remained in each other’s lives and those feelings have only strengthened over the years. Love, loyalty, strength and friendship

Ms Kammenou tackles both the joyful aspects of family and friendship, but she doesn’t shy away from difficult aspects of real life.  This novel tackles depression and counselling, domestic abuse, sexuality, devastation from a road traffic accident, politics, suicide, separation and bereavement.  As the mother of a young gay man, I was particularly moved by the story of young Anthony’s sexuality and the difficulties he and others experienced.  This is very different to my own family.

Once again I laughed with these ladies, but I also cried with them.  Their characters grow throughout the book and the author describes real life, not sugar coated, warts and all.  I loved this sequel and can’t wait to get my hands on the final book in the saga.  A great warm, emotional family saga to pack in your suitcase this summer!

I forgot to mention that once again Ms Kammenou demonstrates her wonderful Greek heritage with beautiful descriptions of Greece but more importantly of the food preparation.  Then interspersed with the chapters are recipes and directions to make the dishes, and they are so mouth watering that my family were treated to the Greek Stuffed Tomatoes and Peppers last night!  More wonderful recipes can be found her her website.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Another 5 stars for this heart warming contemporary, family novel.

About the Author:

Effie Kammenou is a believer that it is never too late to chase your dreams, follow your heart or change your career. cover photo 2She is proof of that. At one time, long ago, she’d thought that, by her age, she would have had an Oscar in her hand after a successful career as an actor. Instead, she worked in the optical field for 40 years and is the proud mother of two accomplished young women.

Her debut novel, Evanthia’s Gift, is a women’s fiction multigenerational love story and family saga, influenced by her Greek heritage, and the many real life accounts that have been passed down. She continues to pick her father’s brain for stories of his family’s life in Lesvos, Greece, and their journey to America. Her interview with him was published in a nationally circulated magazine.

Evanthia’s Gift: Book One in The Gift Saga was a 2016 award finalist in the Readers Favorite Awards in the Women’s Fiction category.  Waiting for Aegina is Book Two in The Gift Saga and Chasing Petalouthes is Kammenou’s latest release, completing the series.

EG & WFA Facebook-Twitter 1

Effie Kammenou is a first generation Greek-American who lives on Long Island with her husband and two daughters. When she’s not writing, or posting recipes on her food blog, cheffieskitchen.wordpress.com, you can find her entertaining family and friends or traveling for ‘research.’

As an avid cook and baker, a skill she learned from watching her Athenian mother, she incorporated traditional Greek family recipes throughout the books.

She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Theater Arts from Hofstra University.

Effie Kammenou is a believer that it is never too late to chase your dreams, follow your heart or change your career. She is proof of that. At one time, long ago, she’d thought that, by her age, she would have had an Oscar in her hand after a successful career as an actor. Instead, she worked in the optical field for 40 years and is the proud mother of two accomplished young women.

Her debut novel, Evanthia’s Gift, is a women’s fiction multigenerational love story and family saga, influenced by her Greek heritage, and the many real life accounts that have been passed down. She continues to pick her father’s brain for stories of his family’s life in Lesvos, Greece, and their journey to America. Her interview with him was published in a nationally circulated magazine.

Evanthia’s Gift: Book One in The Gift Saga was a 2016 award finalist in the Readers Favorite Awards in the Women’s Fiction category.  Waiting for Aegina is Book Two in The Gift Saga and Chasing Petalouthes is Kammenou’s latest release, completing the series.

Effie Kammenou is a first generation Greek-American who lives on Long Island with her husband and two daughters. When she’s not writing, or posting recipes on her food blog, cheffieskitchen.wordpress.com, you can find her entertaining family and friends or traveling for ‘research.’

As an avid cook and baker, a skill she learned from watching her Athenian mother, she incorporated traditional Greek family recipes throughout the books.

She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Theater Arts from Hofstra University.

Find Effie:

On Twitter: @EffieKammenou

Facebook: @EffieKammenou

Website:  www.cheffieskitchen.wordpress.com

Gift Saga

 

A Summer Holiday Read! Blog Tour and Book Review : The Heat is On by Helen Bridgett #LoveBooksGroupTours

Heat is On (1)

I am delighted to be a part of another LoveBooksGroup Blog Tour!  Just right for summer.

The wonderful middle aged ladies Angie and Patty, along with their best friend Charlie are back to add some sparkle to the summer.  Angie and Charlie are running their successful travel agency, the Mercury Travel Club, their friend Patty has just returned from performing on cruise ships and all three are in new relationships.

Angie has bought her first home since her divorce; her daughter Zoe is living in New York and she has a wonderful new man in her life.  She has won a local Business Entrepreneur Award and the travel agency has been going from strength to strength.  Life is good!  But this is all to change when Lorenzo enters their world with his new brand of travel agency that he opens in a shop directly opposite The Mercury Travel Club.  Suddenly the friends find themselves desperately fighting for their business as they are undercut and thwarted at every turn by the devious Lorenzo – can they find ways to remain one step ahead with innovative and fun ideas, to maintain their loyal customer base and to woo new clients?

A unique opportunity presents itself in the shape of a beautiful island retreat, which could give the friends the USP that they need for the survival of the Mercury Travel Club.  Add maintaining their personal relationships and growing new ones into the mix – what could possibly go wrong?

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Heat is On Pin

This is the second book in the series, and whilst I always recommend reading a series from the start, The Heat is On can definitely be read as a stand-alone – there really is enough explanation to understand the back stories.  The antics of the pals make this the perfect light, romantic comedy to pack in your suitcase and read on the beach!  The book is fun, witty and easy to read – maybe not a great literary novel, but certainly a very enjoyable one!

Angie, Patty and Charlie are funny, lovable and in possession of real human traits.  For me some of their most endearing qualities are those that are reflective of real life and not some magazine styled ideal – failed relationships, insecurities, less than perfect bodies, inability to cook, embarrassing parents, turbulent love lives and a love of life.  They show that it is possible to be middle aged and still have a sense of adventure and joie de vivre.  The friends are loyal, protective and love each other – this gives the book a real feel good factor.

The characters are funny, scatty and seem to invite disaster at every turn.  But they are also lovable, believable and it felt joyful to be a part of their story.  I love a well written classic piece of literature, but I equally love a well written, contemporary, light hearted tale and would definitely describe this book in this category.  Angie is a great character and I can easily both laugh with her and cry with her – this woman has soul!  Patty is larger than life and just makes me smile every time she enters the room.  Charlie provides the balance to his female friends – the voice of reason yet also passionate and driven.  Perhaps my favourite character is Angie’s mum – so funny and always there at just the wrong moment to make an entrance.

A joy to read, this is a light hearted, romantic comedy that doesn’t pretend to be anything else – a perfect, unpretentious read for the summer!  4 stars

With thanks to Kelly at LoveBooksGroup for including me on this blog tour.

Available from:

Amazon:

Book 1 –

Book 2 –

 

Waterstones

WHSmith

 

About the Author

Helen has always loved books and always loved writing. One year she decided her New Year’s resolution would be “Write a novel to give as a Christmas present”. She spent the year writing and The Mercury Travel Club was born.

Helen hails from the North East but now lives in Manchester. bridgett
Following a career in Marketing, Helen took an MA in TV and Radio Scriptwriting and created short films before writing her first novel. She loves nothing more than a glass of wine and witty banter with friends; her love of dialogue feeds into her work and has given her the perfect excuse to eavesdrop on conversations. Helen lives with her husband and their chocolate Labrador, Angus; all three can often be found wandering the Cumbrian hills or in country pubs.

Like many people, Helen believes that the music you grow up with as a teenager stays with you for the whole of your life. Being a child of 80’s rock, when she hears the opening riff to Sweet Child of Mine, she cannot be held responsible for her actions!

Find Helen:

Website: Helen Bridgett.com

Twitter: @Helen_Bridgett

Goodreads

Publisher: Red Door Publishing

Fiction in Anglo Saxon Britain – Blog Tour and Review of “The Warrior with the Pierced Heart” by Chris Bishop #LoveBooksGroup

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Wessex 878AD.  Matthew, christened Edward, is third born son of Edwulf the Ealdorman and brother of the Saxon warrior Lord Edwin.  He is a novice monk turned warrior, who starts his tale whilst marching to celebrate King Alfred’s great victory at Edington but soon he and his men fall victim to an ambush by Viking raiders.  He is wounded with an arrow to the heart and believes his injury to be fatal as he feels the life ebbing from him.  But he is found and helped by a mysterious woman called Ingar who proclaims herself to be a healer, deriving her knowledge and skills from Mother Earth.

The book follows Matthew on his road to recovery and the many more battles which lie ahead, both physical and metaphorical, as he attempts to return to Saxon King Alfred.  He finds himself rapidly moving from one disaster to another, whilst making both friends and enemies along the way on a journey that is full of adversity, hope and triumph….no spoilers!!

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Review Warrior with Pierced Heart

 

This is the second book in the Shadow of the Raven series and I have to stick my hand up and admit that I didn’t realise this when I started it.  However, the book can be read as a stand-alone as there are plenty of references to the story so far – but I think that if I were to read it again I would read the first part (Blood and Destiny) to gain a better background as it did take me a little while to “get into it”.

I do enjoy historical novels, and whilst this is a period that I have watched on television dramas such as The last Kingdom, I haven’t read many books covering Anglo Saxon times.  This is only the author’s second novel in a field that is dominated by the like of Bernard Cornwell.  The detail felt very well researched by the author – although I can’t vouch for the historical accuracy as I just don’t know! – and I felt immersed into the Britain of the Dark Ages.  The brutality of the Vikings and the severity of the battles are not sugar coated in this tale!

The book is written in the first person – that is with the main character Matthew narrating the story – and I always feel that this is a much tougher style to write in.  As a result, I think that at times the fast paced tale feels slightly stilted as Matthew’s narration lurches from one disaster to another.  I do admire the author for attempting this though, as a first person narrative can take on a list like quality. I personally would have liked Mr Bishop to expand on his descriptions a little more, as those that he does write paint such a vivid picture – for instance the descriptions of Ingar using herbs for healing, the ruffian gang of Viking slavers and the description of sailing up the Thames and Matthew’s first impressions of London.  For me the descriptions of Leatherhead were great as it is only up the road from my home – we were at the the theatre there last month and believe me that it there is no resemblance between then and now!

There is a great deal of humour in this novel, particularly the way in which certain characters are described and little comments that Matthew makes.  I liked the characters – even some of the blood thirsty Vikings – and I loved the way that Matthew plays with his infamy as the story of “the warrior with the pierced heart”, returning from the dead, spreads far and wide.  The character of young Matthew, who was a monk and is now a warrior whilst still in his teens, develops and grows both emotionally and physically throughout the course of the book.  This growth mirrors his personal healing and recovery after his near fatal wounds sustained at the beginning of the book.  As this young man describes his physical strength growing from day to day, I believe that the reader also witnesses his mental strength and personality growing and maturing from day to day.  Matthew does seem to find himself in one sticky situation after another though, and I don’t think that I would want to take a journey with him!

This is an action packed historical novel from a new author that I think will appeal to many historical fiction fans. The writing style is not quite my cup of tea, but nevertheless I did enjoy it.  I believe that the author will go from strength to strength in his writing and I look forward to further novels in the future……and I should mention that I have purchased the first book which I will go back and read now!  3.5 stars

Thank you to Kelly at Love Books Group for giving me the opportunity to be on this tour!

More Information Available from

Amazon:

Waterstones

Goodreads

Red Door Publishing

About the Author

Chris BisshopChris Bishop is a retired chartered surveyor who has pursued his love of writing for as long as he can remember. He is an intrepid traveller and a retired Fellow of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. He is married with two children and four granddaughters and lives in London. His other interests are travel, windsurfing and fly fishing.

Website: theshadowoftheraven.com

Twitter: @CBishop_author

 

 

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Down the Tubes by Kate Rigby – Book Review : Gritty novel based in the world of addiction

I’m getting into the swing of regular book reviews – here is this week’s offering!

I was fortunate to be given a copy of this book via The Book Club on Facebook in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Down the tubes

In her own mind Cheryl West tried really hard to be a good wife and mother, but it just didn’t work out.  For Cheryl there was always something missing and when her children (Elaine, Michael, Stephen and little Juliet) grew beyond the baby years, they lost their appeal and maybe her husband and then her boyfriend never had much appeal.  But now she wants to be a different woman, a woman with a career and that takes her back to London leaving a family behind in Bournemouth.  She becomes a worker in a drugs unit and there she experiences a side to life that is new to her as she speaks with clients and visits their homes.  The reality of the decisions that they have made and the impact they have had upon others forces her to evaluate some of the decisions that she has made.  This is coupled with the unwelcome visits paid to her by eldest daughter Elaine who only serves as a reminder of the life that she would like to forget.

The second family member who is key in this storyline is son Michael, who has had no contact with his mother, Cheryl, or other family members since walking out when just 16 years old.  Whilst Michael is mentioned regularly in Cheryl’s story, mainly for the lack of contact and wondering what has become of him, the individual family members are mentioned rarely in Michael’s story.  Ironically Michael’s life has also revolved around drugs as he has become an addict in his attempts to rid himself of memories of family life.

The mother and son “miss” each other by minutes in what could have been a chance meeting during a support worker visit from Cheryl to a client whilst in London.  Their paths seem destined to cross again when Cheryl takes a new post in a rural drug rehabilitation unit in Hampshire where Michael has previously been a patient.  Whilst Michael is trying to come to terms with the past in order to move on with a new chapter in his life, Cheryl finds some case notes that uncover secrets from that past life that she cannot accept.

Review Down the Tubes

I cannot sit here and yell from the roof tops that this book is an easy, enjoyable read because it is not.  But this is not a criticism.  Dysfunctional families and drug addiction should not be easy topics to write about or read about.  The feelings of discomfort and at times disgust that the reader feels are testament to the powerful writing of Kate Rigby.  She writes a novel that uses language and scene setting that is not only gritty and realistic, but also shows the soft under belly of the human psyche and the fragility of life.

It is difficult to like Cheryl at times.  She appears self centred and completely at odds with being a mother of four, yet she has her own addiction and that is to babies.  The descriptions of her feelings towards tiny babies are quite unnerving, but even more upsetting are how she views her own infants as they start to grow.  How much of the family’s past issues have been a direct consequence of Cheryl’s actions?  Even her response to certain actions by her husband (no spoilers!) has probably had a huge impact on certain family members.  Her chosen career as a drugs rehabilitation support worker seems completely at odds with her character and some of the thoughts that she has and her actions demonstrate her to be ill suited to the job.  Yet she skilfully manipulates her colleagues in both London and Hampshire to believe that she is doing a wonderful job and that she believes in what she is doing.  Her selfish ways remain even when she does realise that Michael has been a client, with her first thoughts for herself and how his “stories” might affect her.

Meanwhile Michael shows himself to have backbone and courage, even when in the depths of addiction and despair.  I find it interesting that it is the addict who I felt the empathy toward even as his life spiralled.  There are glimpses of Michael’s loving side early on as he firstly develops a relationship with Nicky, and then with his dog Woodstock.  He has no idea that whilst he physically removed himself from her, his life is still winding around his mother’s like a plant shoot binding around the main plant stem.  The way in which Ms Rigby writes leads the reader to feel that much of this confused young man’s angst is as a direct result of his mother’s actions in the past.  In his mind she favoured his younger brother and nothing that he did was good enough.  The reality is probably more that Cheryl was only ever truly able to relate to new-borns and that she struggled with his close relationship with his father.

However, this father /son relationship is another area so well described from the tension of making contact after years apart, the difficulties of acknowledging just what the relationship was in the past and a way forward for both men now.  Ms Rigby carefully and cleverly incorporates the different back stories from the individual family members into a tapestry that makes a whole.  The reader learns to care about the characters and becomes invested in their stories.

The language and description of life for the various different drug addicts within the story add both colour and steel to the tapestry.  The harsh truths of the impact that drugs have on both individuals and the family are not sugar coated in this novel.  The author shows that drugs can be found in the midst of any family from any walk of life and that the devastation of lies, deceit and thieving is far reaching.  I include in this the street families that many of the addicts in this find themselves a part of.

Abandonment, selfishness, dysfunctionality, abuse, addiction, love, relationships…..all huge topics that this book throws at the reader.  I applaud the author for not tying up the storylines as it would have been very easy to do so – although she did leave me very frustrated as I want to know what happens!  But this is about real life and we all know that not everyone lives happily ever after.  In my humble opinion a fantastic study of human life. 5 stars

Find out more:

Amazon:

Goodreads

Facebook

About the Author (from the author’s Amazon page)

Kate RigbyKate Rigby has been writing for several decades. She realized her unhip credentials were mounting so decided to write about it.

However she’s not completely unhip. Her punk novel, Fall Of The Flamingo Circus was published by Allison & Busby (1990) and by Villard (American hardback 1990). Skrev Press published her novels Seaview Terrace (2003) Sucka! (2004) and Break Point (2006) and other shorter work has appeared in Skrev’s avant garde magazine Texts’ Bones including a version of her satirical novella Lost The Plot.

Thalidomide Kid was published by Bewrite Books (2007).

Her book Little Guide to Unhip was published by Night Publishing (2010).

She has had other short stories published and shortlisted including Hard Workers and Headboards, first published in The Diva Book of Short Stories and also as part of the Dancing In The Dark erotic anthology (Pfoxmoor 2011).

She also received a Southern Arts bursary for her novel Where A Shadow Played (now ‘Did You Whisper Back?’).

Titles now available on Kindle and other e-books are:

Little Guide to Unhip (also in paperback*)
Thalidomide Kid
Seaview Terrace
Far Cry From The Turquoise Room (also in paperback*)
Break Point
Suckers n Scallies
Down The Tubes (also in paperback*)
Tales By Kindlelight (available as a collection – She Looks Pale & Other Stories*)
Savage To Savvy (also available in paperback*)
Did You Whisper Back?
Fall Of The Flamingo Circus
She Looks Pale (available as a collection – She Looks Pale & Other Stories*)
The Dead Club (also available in paperback*)
Fruit Woman (coming soon in paperback)

Short Stories:

Family Tradition
Coats
On Your Half Century
Sharing Sarah
Cutting Edge
Hard Workers

* paperbacks available by following the Amazon link where listed

Details about Kate’s work can be found at her website:

http://kjrbooks.yolasite.com/

Or her occasional blogs can be found at:

http://bubbitybooks.blogspot.com/Facebook

 

Blog Tour and Book Review: The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter by Cherry Radford

Light House Keepers Blog Tour

I was fortunate to be given a copy of this book through Love Books and the author in exchange for a fair and honest review

Living in her aunt’s lighthouse at Beachy Head, recently separated Imogen is doing her best to carve out a new life as a writer.  Her teenage son is living with his father and displays indifference to her at every turn, her ex has a younger model and her aunt is in Jersey recuperating at her cousin’s home.  But how will a middle-aged woman, used to life in suburbia, cope living on a rural headland and perhaps most poignantly a mere stone’s throw from the lighthouse where her own father died in a tragic accident.  Aunt Dorothy has started to send Imogen pages, well excerpts really from her father’s diary, but she is being very mysterious as to why she won’t just send her the whole thing.

Imogen is struggling to find a plot for her novel and definitely does not want to go with her ex-husband Ewan’s idea to write about her own father.  It is whilst she is driving in Ewan’s old car that she inserts a CD and falls helplessly in love with a piece of flamenco guitar music.  She feels the “beautiful but unbearable melody” and as she stops the car to listen, wonders how she had not before “understood the anger in sadness”. So begins the second thread of the storyline as Imogen takes the bold step to contact the guitarist on Twitter, setting the wheels in motion for new friendships and relationships.

Imogen finds herself making a new best friend in Jules, who helps her to put some of the demons surrounding her parents’ marriage and then her father’s death to rest.  In return Imogen introduces Jules to the builder, Dylan, employed by her aunt to undertake an endless list of works at the lighthouse.  Meanwhile the tweets to and from Spain are growing as the guitarist Santiago explains that he needs an English teacher and perhaps Imogen can help him.  His music career is fading and his manager has encouraged him into acting.  Imogen finds herself drawn toward Santi and his close family more and more, as her novel starts to unfold and her imagination mixes fact and fiction.

Her Twitter friendship is unfolding alongside her reading and learning more of her father in his diary, even finding that he also had a penpal – of the more traditional variety!  The diary reveals secrets that make Imogen question everything about her past and throw caution to the wind with a visit to Madrid and a man who she only knows through “140 character” messages.

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PinLighthouse Keeper's Daughter

I would class this as a contemporary romance novel, but with a difference.  There are romance novels and films where it is too easy to unravel the whole plot in the first five minutes – too predictable and one dimensional.  This book is not like that and Cherry Radford has written enough twists and turns to keep you guessing.  The lighthouse storyline about her father lends some intrigue, whilst the Spanish storyline adds another whole dimension.  The characters are believable, and I think the fact that some are more likeable than others shows that they are well portrayed.  Imogen’s relationship with son Ollie had me laughing as it rang lots of bells, particularly as I have a teen Olly too and I really enjoyed the scenes of the blossoming relationship with new friend Jules.  I would definitely enjoy a night at the pub with these ladies (this was their first proper meeting place!) – they are chalk and cheese, but this just adds to the humour.

Using social media to set up a “friendship” is genius, resembling so much of life today, and the communication barriers down to language mistakes are at times hilarious.  There is a whole storyline describing Santi’s life and family in Madrid, which you must discover for yourself alongside Imogen…I don’t want to give anything away….but his early referrals to her as “the English woman” and how he views her as stereotypical English with her pale red hair and shy freckled body are very funny.  The characters in the book all grow, not necessarily in the ways that the reader expects or wants, but relationships develop and become clearer as the storyline unfolds.

There are some very atmospheric descriptions of both the south coast of England, particularly of the rain and mist sweeping in, and also of historic Madrid where Imogen gains inspiration for her own novel.

I really enjoyed Cherry Radford’s style of writing and will be returning for more of her novels.  I found this an easy going read – I actually read it within a couple of days – with a bit of history (the lighthouses), some intrigue, friendships, tears and love.  Plus lots of laughter – from me at least!

Five stars.

Available at Amazon here :

 

About the Author

81tEosh+iPL._UX250_Cherry Radford was a piano teacher at the Royal Ballet Junior School, a keyboard player in a band, and then a research optometrist at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London before suddenly writing her first novel in the middle of a scientific conference in 2009.  She now lives in Eastbourne and Almeria (Spain).

Her first 2 novels are available from Amazon and she is now thrilled to have signed with the wonderful Urbane Publications, who will publish The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter in Spring 2018.

Blog: Bla Bla Land

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Website