Wednesday, 2 March 2022

The One - Claire Frost

About the book… 

What happens when you lose the love of your life just three months after you meet him?

Lottie Brown has finally found The One. Leo is everything she’s ever wanted – he’s handsome, kind, funny and totally gets her. Three months into their relationship, Lottie is in love and happier than ever before.

But then Leo tragically dies, and Lottie is left floundering.

As she struggles to stop her life falling apart, Lottie learns more about the man she thought she knew, and starts to question whether Leo really was as perfect as he seemed…

The brand-new heart-breaking novel of love, loss and learning to live again, from the acclaimed author of MARRIED AT FIRST SWIPE. Perfect for fans of Paige Toon, Holly Miller and Rosie Walsh.

Buy Links: 

About the author… 

Claire Frost grew up in Manchester, the middle of three sisters. She always wanted to do a job that involved writing, so after studying Classics at Bristol University she found a job in magazines. For the last 10 years she's worked at The Sun on Sunday's Fabulous magazine, where she is Assistant Editor and Books Editor. She can mostly be found at her desk buried beneath an ever-increasing pile of books or at home writing funny and heart-warming novels about love, life and social media.

Contact Links: 

Twitter: @FabFROSTY
INSTAGRAM: @therealfabfrosty

My thoughts…

Lottie is the central character in Claire Frosts new novel ‘The One”. Imagine twelve weeks into a relationship that you think is the most perfect relationship ever, your boyfriend suddenly dies!!  It would be absolutely horrific and that’s exactly what happens and how we are introduced to Lottie. 

Lottie is the middle of three sisters and living a life of mediocrity - she sees her life as average  - sandwiched between two sisters that seem to have everything sorted in life.  She thinks she is not as capable or clever as either of them and she doesn’t have the settled relationships they have either.

Her boyfriend Leo only held that title for twelve weeks before he suddenly died - we join Lottie as she has to begin navigating the dark path of grief and tries to overcome the feeling that she has lost her one and only chance of happiness - Leo was ‘the one’ he was perfect in every way and despite their relationship only spanning 12 short weeks she knows they were destined for a lifetime of happiness and she would have been on a par with her sisters and their settled lives.

Her journey sees her examining her relationship with Leo in minutiae, prompted and prodded by her sisters - this was at times extremely difficult to read and Lottie travelled the bumpy path of grief that finds her examining every aspect of her life.  Grief, love, relationships and family all come under the spotlight and assumptions, thoughts and opinions are exposed and sees her reevaluating everything she thought she knew - this made for raw reading, as situations are turned on their head and every aspect of Lotties life is laid bare.

The One is told both in the present and the past, it recounts the short but intense relationship between Lottie and Leo, her relationship with her sisters and her work colleagues. Emotions and feelings are laid bare and honest, open conversations take place. I was cheerleading for Lottie throughout and my own emotions dipped and rose with the pacing of the story. It was at times funny, light and uplifting and at others very sad, raw and heartbreaking.  I thought the author described the dynamics of the three siblings exceptionally well.  Without meaning to, all too often middle children can slip under the radar and Lottie has obviously fitted herself into this role all too easily.  Annie, the older sister on the face of it the strong, direct one - always in control and Em the youngest, more easy going, the relaxed stay at home mum. I loved that we got under the skin of both Laura and Em too and busted a few myths along the way.

Family dynamics are complex and not always what they seem but the fierce lion like loyalty of the sisters coming together to protect their cub ‘Lottie’ was truly beautiful to read about and Lottie got support and a hand of friendship from an unexpected source too - yes, I was willing this fledgling friendship on from the sidelines - who wouldn’t?  All of whom encourage Lottie, give her the support and space to unpack her thoughts and feelings and metaphorically speaking hold her hand as she navigates a new path - this was truly lovely to read, watching her find strength and courage to move her life onwards and upwards.

The One was a book that was sad but ultimately uplifting, it was bolstered by the strength of family and friendship - openness and honesty.  A beautiful story written with tenderness and sensitivity.

Follow the tour:

Monday, 7 February 2022

The Start of Something - Miranda Dickinson

About the book… 

Two lonely people.
One note in the window.
And what happens when they reach out…

Lachlan Wallace is stuck at home after a car accident stalled his army career. With months of physiotherapy still to endure and only his rescue dog and cat for company, he’s taken to gazing out of the window, watching the world spin on without him. And then he notices a vase of flowers on the windowsill of the apartment opposite his. Drawn to their hope and colour, he decides to reach out and sticks a message in his window…

Bethan Gwynne is a stranger in a new town. Bringing up her son Noah by herself, she is slowly rebuilding her life, but loneliness is one obstacle she has yet to overcome. She’s intrigued by a glimpse of her neighbour in the apartment across from hers – and then, one evening, she sees a message in his window just for her:


And so begins a love story of two people reaching out, daring to trust a stranger…

Buy Links: 

About the author… 

I am a six-times Sunday Times Bestselling author of ten books, have been shortlisted twice for RNA awards (for Novel of the Year in 2010 with Fairytale of New Yorkand again in 2012 for Contemporary Novel of the Year for It Started With a Kiss), have been published in fifteen languages and been a bestseller in four countries, have sold a million books and still can’t believe all of the above has happened to me!

I always wanted to be a writer. My first ambition was to write a book worthy of display on the shelves of wonderful Kingswinford Library (which, at the time, was not much bigger than somebody’s living room, but to wide-eyed five-and-a-half year old me was a palace of dreams). Consequently, my childhood and teens were filled with lots and lots of ‘Chapter Ones’ and grand schemes for amazing stories that would set the world alight (if only I could write more than one chapter of them).

Then someone at sixth form college suggested that writing books was ‘childish’. So I stopped writing. It was a daft thing to do, but for the next ten years I didn’t write, choosing to believe the Sayers of Doom instead of listening to what my heart was telling me to do.

Fast-forward to 2001, when a lovely friend gave me a very old, reconditioned PC (which I was later to immortalise as Old F the coffee machine in my debut novel, Fairytale of New York). There was something about messing about on a computer keyboard that kickstarted ideas in my brain and one day I wrote a paragraph that began: This city is not mine by birthright… Seven years later, after one fatal PC crash, a very embarrassing email to a dodgy ex (who I’d sent the story so far to, asking for him to send me the chapters I’d lost) and a fantastically scary friend called Lindsey who wanted to read more than I had written, that paragraph had become Coffee at Kowalski’s – a novel I uploaded onto which, amazingly, was spotted by an editor at AVON (HarperCollins) and published as Fairytale of New York in 2009.

Fairytale became an instant bestseller, reaching number 8 in the Sunday Times Bestsellers List and staying in the top 10 for five weeks. To date, it has sold over 150,000 copies (I thought it would be awesome if it sold 500, so you can imagine my shock when it passed the 100k mark…)

My next five novels, Welcome to My World, It Started With a Kiss, When I Fall in Love, Take A Look At Me Now and I’ll Take New York have all become top 20 Sunday Times Bestsellers, followed by A Parcel for Anna Browne, Searching for a Silver Lining, Christmas in St Ives (an ebook novella and prequel to Somewhere Beyond the Sea), Somewhere Beyond the Sea and The Day We Meet Again. To date, I have sold over one million books worldwide. I am also the founder of WriteFoxy – offering a whole host of resources for writers at all stages of their writing careers, including inspiration days, online resources, vlogs and more to be announced soon. I’ve been vlogging about writing and my books since 2010 and you can watch them and subscribe to my channel HERE.

One note for you, if you’re a writer: the dream is possible. It happened for me, so it can happen for you. Never stop believing and never stop creating awesome word-worlds for people to wander through. And if you’d like to know more about writing (or anything else), email me at!

Contact Links: 

Follow Miranda's vlog at 
Visit her website: 
Follow Miranda on Twitter: @wurdsmyth, 
On Instagram: @wurdsmyth 
On Facebook: MirandaDickinsonAuthor

My thoughts…

The Start of Something is a story about new beginnings, and fresh starts from a place of zero expectation.

A budding friendship that is triggered by an innocuous question about a vase of flowers. We meet single parent Bethan as she works the clock around painting a flat before moving in with her son Noah and Lachlan who lives in the flat opposite with Ernie & Bert his rescue cat and dog.

Bethan is hoping for a fresh start with Noah and dreams of a better life for her and him. Hoping this new flat will be the catalyst to a better future. Lachlan is obviously recovering from an accident and he comes across as hard and angry. Both have a back story that we have no idea about, both of their characters and actions raise questions.

Both of them have independantly observed each other from a far, each wondering about the other. Bethan had noticed Lachlan’s cat sat basking on the windowsill and a tattooed arm stroking it - this sets off a wonder - she’s intrigued and would like to know the story behind the tattoo’s. Lachlan notices a bunch of flowers in the window of his new neighbour, and decides to post a question in his window asking what they are - what they turn out to be are a catalyst. A catalyst to a journey of self discovery, hurt, anguish and eventually self awareness and friendship. A single note becomes a series of notes and questions. Each one pushing them outside of their comfort zone, forging a bond that’s safe and secure - each safe in their own flat.

This was such a beautiful read, both Bethan and Lachlan's hearts and lives were so tangled in their own back stories, both were complex, heart rendering and sad. I was cheerleading from the sidelines, urging them on to gain courage and confidence, to build a proper friendship based on trust. They proved their own worst enemy time and again, the inner voices in their heads beating a tattoo that didn’t match the actual spoken words. Each translating the words they heard into a totally different meaning. For every step forward they took, they seemed to tumble two back. Self esteem, self believe and trust for both of them were fragile and shattered.

But, Miranda Dickinson sprinkled her magic, and as emotional as it was at times it was just beautiful to be a fly on the wall and watch as they each grew in strength and character - each fighting their own demons, needing to heal and grow before being able to cement a friendship on an equal footing.

As much as this was a heartfelt, at times emotional read, the back stories raw it was also hopeful and uplifting at the same time. There was shining moments to counter the darker moments. As the story ended it wasn’t just Beth and Lachlan that had gone full circle, each stronger and happier, I too was left with a lighter heart and a smile on my face. Thank you, Miranda for yet another beautiful story centred around real life, open, honest characters, trust, love and friendship delivered in your usual sensitive, kind, straight-forward style - just perfect - I loved every single page.

Follow the tour:

Saturday, 8 January 2022

The Little Shop of Hidden Treasures - Holly Hepburn

About the book… 

*The brand new novel from Holly Hepburn, perfect for fans of Cathy Bramley and Katie Fforde.**
Originally published in four parts this is the full story in one package.

When Hope loses her husband, she fears her happiest days are behind her. With her only connection to London broken, she moves home to York to be near her family and to begin to build a new life.

Taking a job at the antique shop she has always admired, she finds herself crossing paths with two very different men. Will, who has recently become the guardian to his niece after the tragic death of her parents. And Ciaran, who she enlists to help solve the mystery of an Egyptian antique. Two men who represent two different happy endings.

But can she trust herself to choose the right man? And will that bring her everything she really needs?

Buy Links: 

About the author… 

I’ve wanted to write books for adults for as long as I can remember but I was too scared to try. One day I decided to be brave and dipped a toe into the bubble bath of romantic comedy with my first novella, Cupidity, and I’ve never looked back. I often try to be funny to be funny, except for when faced with traffic wardens and border control staff. My favourite thing is making people smile.

I’ve tried many jobs over the years, from barmaid to market researcher and I even had a brief flirtation with modelling. These days I am mostly found writing.

I live near London with my grey tabby cat, Portia. We both have an unhealthy obsession with Marmite.

Contact Links: 

Twitter: @HollyH_Author

My thoughts…

After the biggest reading slump I’ve ever known we entered a new year and I was determined to read a book from start to finish.  My first read of 2022 was The Little Shop of Hidden Treasures by Simon & Schuster author, Holly Hepburn.

Where can I begin, I read it cover to cover over two days and what a belter - it was exactly what I needed to kick start the year and get me reading again!  The story revolves around Hope and The Ever After Emporium, a shop that has intrigued and enchanted Hope since she was a small child.

Hope has moved to York from London to be nearer to her family.  She was devastatingly widowed two years previously before being made redundant - she is lost and directionless, and as a reader she comes comes across as hollow and empty, I could feel her pain, and visualise her face and body language as clearly as if she was stood next to me.  You could tell she really was just going through the motions, nodding in the right place to appease her family, who clearly mean well but don’t really get where she’s at.

When Hope finds herself outside The Ever After Emporium she’s instantly transported back to her childhood, remembering the times she gazed whilst-fully through the window as a child in at an Aladdin’s Cave of eclectic artefacts and treasures.  As I read, I was transported to York - which is my most favourite City to visit by the way, to the Imaginarium a shop that is just exactly the same, an Aladdins Cave of interesting and different objects that you didn’t realise you needed in your life until you saw them in the shop.  I can lose hours in that shop!

Hope found herself applying for a part-time job that was advertised on a card in the window, thinking it would be perfect whilst she got her life back on track, although she did talk herself out of it thinking herself not suitable at one point, before suddenly we find she’s in the shop talking with the owner Mr Young and the next thing employed.  She hoped her family would see this as a positive step forward in rebuilding her life. 

The story centres around a spectacular piece of treasure that has been hidden for 90 years and is discovered by Brodie, the small niece of Will, a local jeweller.  Brodie also loves to visit the store and is as mesmerised by the contents as Holly was and she absolutely melted my heart!

Holly is tasked by her new employer with uncovering the history and true ownership of the treasure Brodie found.  As a reader, I virtually packed my bags and joined Hope on a romantic journey of discovery as we were transported between Egypt and York.  The past and present colliding as we pieced together a jigsaw that did more than pull at my heart strings. A story that was desperate, sad yet hopeful and alive - I just loved it and was totally absorbed. Hope was able to distract herself from her own situation because she was so engrossed in solving the mystery - it came at a time that was exactly right for her and at the same time she started to make some new friends in the other shopkeepers too.  It really was just lovely to see her filling out, moving beyond her initial empty shell like state, growing in confidence and stature and finding herself caught up in romance by not one but two very different men.

This story demonstrates how at certain times in our life, when we’re dealt a poor hand we have a choice. sink or swim, usually your gut instinct is the right one and that it’s ok to accept support and friendship whilst you pick yourself up but should then be given the space to make your own decisions. As in this book, time, quiet and space will usually allow for balanced decisions - none of us benefit from being told what to do. I felt an emotional attachment to Hope and rooted for her throughout, her voice wasn’t loud enough to fight for her self at times, drowned out by the white noise around her but she is a strong character and I willed her to take back control which she does with panache.

An absolutely wonderful read, that is uplifting, heart warming and hopeful. The hurt, intrigue and romance is heartfelt, the friendships strong and watching Hope emerge and fly like a butterfly was just lovely.

Follow the tour:

Monday, 18 October 2021

The Woman in the Middle - Milly Johnson

About the book… 

From Sunday Times bestselling author Milly Johnson comes a poignant story about family, responsibility and learning to balance it all.

Sandwich generation [noun]: A generation of people, typically in their thirties or forties, responsible both for bringing up their own children and for the care of their ageing parents.

Shay Bastable is the woman in the middle. She is part of the sandwich generation, caring for both her parents and her children as best she can, alongside supporting her husband, Bruce. With her mother’s and father’s health in decline, very little support from her ‘extremely busy’ sister Paula, her son’s wedding just around the corner and her daughter only in touch when she needs money, she’s certainly got a lot on her plate!

Wife, mother, daughter; she has played all her roles dutifully. That is, until a sudden and shocking loss which sends her spiralling to rock bottom. Forced to put herself first for a change, Shay realises that sometimes you have to fall, to find out where you stand.


“A gorgeous, warm novel about friendship and how some people are just meant to be by your side” Adele Parks, Platinum Magazine

“A thought-provoking read that explores what it truly means to love” Woman & Home “Funny, poignant and so uplifting” The Sun

“A heartfelt novel from one of our favourite authors” Bella

“Brimming with Johnson’s usual feelgood factor, this is human nature at its best” My Weekly

Buy Links: 

About the author… 

MILLY JOHNSON was born, raised and still lives in Barnsley, South Yorkshire. A Sunday Times bestseller, she is one of the Top 10 Female Fiction authors in the UK with millions of copies of her books sold across the world. In 2020, she was honoured with the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s Outstanding Achievement Award and was a featured author in the Reading Agency’s Quick Reads and World Book Night campaigns.

A writer who champions women and highlights the importance of friendship and community, Milly’s characters are celebrations of the strength of the human spirit. The Woman in the Middle is her nineteenth novel.

Contact Links: 

Twitter: @millyjohnson

My thoughts…

There is nothing quite like a Milly Johnson book - Milly has perfected the art of portraying real family life with the dynamics and emotions that tie them together in such a way that as a reader you forget you are reading about fictional characters, and not reading about your own friends and family. With each book, from the very first pages I find myself totally hooked and totally invested and immersed in their lives.

I devoured The Woman in the Middle in almost one sitting, I picked it up one evening, read 40 pages and just knew it was going to be brilliant. I settled down the next day to read the remaining 400! The Woman in the Middle is such a heartfelt, relatable story - Milly has the words and analogies that just sums everything up perfectly. Sandwiched between family and work pressures it’s easy to forget to care for yourself too - my emotions yo - yo’d whist reading, she touched so many raw nerves, throughout the book that at times I found myself reading with a lump in my throat that I couldn’t swallow. I think The Woman in the Middle evoked in me every emotion possible from one end of the spectrum to the other. So many aspects of family life tackled in a thought provoking way.

The central character is Shay Bastable, a woman with a backbone of steel, and a heart of gold, her whole life is centred on administering care and support for her whole family. Mostly unnoticed and without thanks. Shay is described as part of the sandwich generation - a term I’d never heard before but totally understood as the story unfolded. She is stuck, sandwiched in the middle, somewhere between caring for her two elderly parents and that of her grown up children who having flown the nest appear to have dropped off her radar. Let’s also not forget Bruce, her husband too.

I absolutely loved Shay, but wanted to give her a push to add ‘herself’ into the equation, she was totally selfless - the needs and lives of her family uttermost in her every thought and action, never asking for anything for herself nor seeking pity for a life of giving - she personified the best mother, daughter, wife role. Caring for her family was uppermost in her mind, she never put herself first, she saw her role in the family and fullfilled it.

Shay visits her mum everyday, providing essential care for her Roberta, left to do it alone by sister Paula, she doesn’t have time in her day. Roberta has dementia and becomes fixated on the arrival of a skip next door, the name on the side triggering memories. This sets off a chain of events that turns both their lives upside down and subsequently the inter-family relationships, irrevocably on their head. Relationships, friendships and family life are reassessed as Shay finds herself going back to her past to understand her present and subsequently shape her future.

As much as this was a heartfelt, emotional read for me it was also hopeful and uplifting at the same time, shining light on the dark moments, life evolves and nothing and no one stays the same forever. Milly tastefully scattered a liberal amount of humour throughout to soften the edges, and as the story ended I was left with a lighter heart and a smile on my face. Thank you Milly Johnson for yet another beautiful story about relationships, family dynamics, love and friendship delivered in your usual open, honest, straight-forward style - just perfect. 

Follow the tour:

Tuesday, 6 July 2021

Home - Penny Parkes

About the book… 

Anna Wilson travels the world as a professional housesitter – stepping into other people’s lives - caring for their homes, pets and sometimes even neighbours. Living vicariously.

But all Anna has ever really wanted is a home of her own – a proper one, filled with family and love and happy memories. If only she knew where to start.

Growing up in foster care, she always envied her friends their secure and carefree lives, their certainty and confidence. And, while those same friends may have become her family of choice, Anna is still stuck in that nomadic cycle, looking for answers, trying to find the courage to put down roots and find a place to call home.

Compelling, rich and evocative, Home is Anna’s journey to discovering that it isn’t where you settle down that matters, but the people you have around you when you do.

Buy Links: 

About the author… 

Penny Parkes survived a convent education largely thanks to a ready supply of inappropriate novels and her passion for writ- ing and languages.

She studied International Management in Bath and Germany, before gaining experience with the BBC. She then set up an independent film location agency and spent many happy years organising shoots for film, television and advertis- ing – thereby ensuring that she was never short of travel opportunities, freelance writing projects or entertaining anecdotes.

Penny now lives in the Cotswolds with her husband, two children and an excitable dog with a fondness for Post-its. She will often be found plotting epic train journeys through the Alps, baking gluten-free goodies or attempting to reach an elusive state of organisation.

In 2017, Penny won the RNA Romantic Comedy Novel of the Year Award. This is her fifth novel

Contact Links: 

Follow Penny on Twitter and Instagram: @CotswoldPenny

My thoughts…

If ‘Home’ and Anna Wilson don’t break your heart I don’t know what character and book would!

Penny Parkes drip feeds information and allows us, the reader to gain a gradual insight into the life of the main character Anna, and what makes her tick. How the childhood she knew, moulded her into the adult she’s become. She leads a transient lifestyle, moving from place to place, stepping into a multitude of homes in her capacity as a professional house sitter. Never staying in one place long enough to put down roots, have a social life or get too close to anybody. Living on the periphery of peoples lives, whilst not really living her own.

Early on in the story we learn that as a child Anna had been shunted like an unwanted parcel from foster home to foster home. Her confidence and resilience battered a little more with each move. This explains a lot about character, I truly believe that the life we led as children has a strong bearing upon the adults we become and for Anna this was definitely true. She’s seemingly unable to put down roots and attach herself too strongly to either people or places.

Thank goodness for one of her foster parents Marjorie - what an absolute angel, I loved her as a character so much! She was just beautiful and kind, inside and out - boosting Anna’s confidence and teaching her to reach for the stars, to learn and grow. I really thought that Anna would get to settle here, so it was utterly devastating to read that Anna didn’t get to live her happy ever after life with Marjorie. Their interactions, each giving the other the comfort they needed with the life lessons Marjorie taught her instilled in her a drive to succeed, yet no matter what she achieved she never quite believed in herself. The bar set so high she consistently felt she could never quite sail over it. The mental pressure she put on herself was so hard to read at times, she was always striving for perfection but never quite believing in herself, not allowing anyone to get too close, preferring to keep herself to herself with the exception of best friend Kate.

Kate was the closest thing thing she had to family - she was the family she chose and a better cheer leader she could not have wished for. The sort of friend that is always there for you no matter what but, when needed tells you straight, not afraid to gently pull the punches - I loved her she was funny, resilient and dependable.

I loved watching Anna bloom, find herself and discover what Home meant to her - it isn’t always blood and nature that makes a home but nurture, love and gentle kindness. People who love you for you, not because they’re family and should. With Home Penny Parkes has woven a magical tale laced with honesty, openness, resilience, love and friendship. An uplifting, mentally descriptive read - the words painting vivid pictures that were at times both painful and beautiful. I loved it and loved that without realising it Anna left behind a little bit of herself with each and every house sit, touching the hearts of everyone she met until eventually she emerged like a butterfly and slowly begins to bloom and trust in herself.

This is a book I'll be shouting about for a long time to come - it is humbling, breathe takingly beautiful and a book that I know I shall read again and again. Thank you SJ & Books and the City for introducing me to another amazing author in Penny Parkes.

Follow the tour:

Wednesday, 16 June 2021

Both of `You - Adele Parks

About the book… 

Leigh Fletcher: happily married stepmum to two gorgeous boys goes missing on Monday. Her husband Mark says he knows nothing of her whereabouts. She simply went to work and just never came home. Their family is shattered.

Kai Janssen: married to wealthy Dutch businessman, Daan, vanishes the same week. Kai left their luxurious penthouse and glamourous world without a backward glance. She seemingly evaporated into thin air. Daan is distraught.

DC Clements knows that people disappear all the time – far too frequently. Most run away from things, some run towards, others are taken but find their way back. A sad few never return. These two women are from very different worlds, their disappearances are unlikely to be connected. And yet, at a gut level, the DC believes they are.

How could these women walk away from their families, husbands and homes willingly? Clements is determined to unearth the truth, no matter how shocking and devastating it may be

Buy Links: 

About the author… 

Adele Parks was born in Teesside, NE England. Since graduating from Leicester University, where she studied English Language and Literature, she’s worked in advertising and as a management consultant. In 2010 she was proud to be awarded an honorary doctorate of Letters from Teesside University.

She’d always dreamed of being a writer and her first novel - Playing Away - was published in 2000; that year the Evening Standard identified her as one of London’s ‘Twenty Faces to Watch’, which was very nice of them!

She likes to keep busy and is pretty flattered when she’s described as one of the most-loved and biggest-selling women’s fiction writers in the UK, (who wouldn’t like that?!) 4 million copies of her UK editions have been sold and have been translated into more than 30 different languages. This is her 21st novel, previous include the number one bestsellers Lies Lies Lies and Just My Luck. All her novels examines issues that are important to us all. She likes to scrutinize our concepts of family, our theories on love, parenting and fidelity with (I hope) honesty and humour. Whatever period she sets her novels she’s known for examining the thorny issues of the lives people lead with my trademark, up-front, tell-it-as-it-is style.

During her career she’s lived in Italy, Botswana and London. Now lives happily in Guildford, Surrey with her husband, teenage son and cat.

Read more about her life and books on her website.

Contact Links: 

My thoughts…

Both of You is a novel that is dark, chilling, claustrophobic and unnerving in equal measures.  We join the story as an unknown woman wakes chained to a radiator in an airless, concrete floored  room. Her anxiety and confusion set the tone for the subsequent encounters with her, but who is she and why is she there? What an opener, who is she? Within days we find not one but two local women have been reported missing bu their husbands.

The author introduces us to Leigh and her family, the reader very quickly learning that Leigh, second wife of Mark and step-mum to Seb and Oli was having a hard time of it at home, the boys who she had nurtured and loved for the past ten years since marrying their father after a whirlwind romance are growing away from her.  Elder son Oli in particular had become withdrawn and quite mean in his comments - she was sad and the aching hole their withdrawal had created was palpable, her sadness peeled off the page. Her sadness was evident especially as she was clearly happy to send them off for a week visiting Mark’s family, happy for the time and space to just be.  However, when the trio returned there was no sign of Leigh and my brain instantly went into overdrive, had she left them or was she the woman chained and confused, had she been abducted, if so why and by whom?

Mark was at a loss, his equilibrium clearly shattered without Leigh in the place she should be, dependable by his side when he and the boys returned home.  He reported her missing, his pain and helplessness at odds with his mindset that she was just away working - not able to fully accept that she really could be missing.  Within days we hear that a second person Kai Jannsen has also gone missing.  The two women are polar opposites in character, style and wealth - there doesn’t appear to be anything to link the two other than when they disappeared.  Everything feels a bit odd, not helped by the police officers attitude and demeanour - they were detached and remote, distant and didn’t seem to be taking their disappearances overly seriously.

I was hooked, I needed to mentally find them, turning the pages at a rate of knots to try and get some traction on the thoughts swimming through my mind.  Clues hung tantalisingly out of reach, moving just that little bit further away as I grabbed for them. For every small clue I thought I’d un-covered I had dozens of questions - it was like trying to do a jigsaw that someone had hidden away half the pieces. I just couldn’t find the link or connection.

The story was expertly layered with multi-faceted characters that all had the potential to be at the heart of the women’s disappearance, I second guessed every word, and played back each scenario in my mind, second guessing and doubting everything both written and imagined. The pacing, measured and steady building until the clues started slotting into place.  I found myself muttering and explaining out loud, exclaiming “why did I not see that” when I realised just how many clues were hiding in plain sight. They were so subtle and obvious when I realised but they didn’t even come close to hitting my radar. 

This really was a book that was gripping to the very end, Adele Parks turns family life and dynamics on it’s head - I’m so happy and relieved to be living my quiet, suburban life but so was Leigh - wasn’t she?  An intricately woven tale that is so far removed from every day life but so very very plausible, yet shocking and beyond belief.  A totally compelling and addictive read.

Tuesday, 15 June 2021

And Now You’re Back - Jill Mansell

About the book… 

The most heart-warming novel you'll read this year ... from the Sunday Times bestselling author of IT STARTED WITH A SECRET

One magical winter's night in Venice, Didi fell in love. But it ended - and he left without even saying goodbye.

Now, thirteen years on, Shay Mason is back.

The old spark is still there, but Didi's determined to ignore it. As manager of a stunning Cotswolds hotel, she's happy at last, and soon to be married. Anyway, Shay isn't staying. He's made a promise to his father. He's going to keep it. And then he'll be gone.

But Shay's return stirs up long-forgotten emotions, and the scandal that led him to leave raises its head once again. It's time for buried secrets to come to light. And it seems that this was someone's intention all along . . .

Buy Links: 

About the author… 

Jill Mansell is the author of over twenty Sunday Times bestsellers including The One You Really Want and Meet Me at Beachcomber Bay. Take a Chance on Me won the RNA’s Romantic Comedy Prize, and in 2015 the RNA presented Jill with an outstanding achievement award.

Jill’s personal favourite amongst her novels is Three Amazing Things About You, which is about cystic fibrosis and organ donation; to her great delight, many people have joined the organ donor register as a direct result of reading this novel.

Jill started writing fiction while working in the field of Clinical Neurophysiology in the NHS, but now writes full time. She lives in Bristol with her family.

Contact Links: 

My thoughts…

I've always loved books by Jill Mansell - she's one of a stock few authors that I can rely on to give me a book that hits the spot every time. A feel good book that's not all hearts and flowers, there is always a deeper story to discover that will leaving me smiling.

We meet Didi and Shay as teenagers in Venice. Both there as guests, to celebrate friend Layla’s 18th birthday. A more romantic start to a book you couldn’t imagine. It’s the early hours of the morning, it’s snowing and Didi unable to sleep, goes out into the snow, finding herself in St Marks Square where she sees Shay building a snowman. They’re friends by association, from polar opposite backgrounds yet are drawn to each other, she helps him with the snowman, they end up playing in the snow, sharing a bottle of Prosecco and sharing a magical moment that kickstarts their short lived romance. A romance that was doomed from the start, Didi’s family are wealthy, owners of a luxury hotel, Shay only has his dad, a dad that lives the life of a criminal, in and out of jail - Shay has had to fend for himself, is hard working but not 100% trusted. An incident occurs and when his name is put in the frame as ‘like father like son’, their fledgling relationship crumbles.

Fast forward 13 years and Didi is now the manager of her parents hotel when she comes face to face with her past. Shay is back in town, his father’s seriously ill, his dying wish is to end his days in the home Shay grew up in. To say Didi is shocked to see him would be an understatement - she’s engaged to be married but her equilibrium is seriously rocked on its axis. She never expected to see him again and definitely not in her parents hotel! The chemistry is evident and as a reader you knew there would be more to this tale - the inner turmoil and obvious attraction leapt off the pages but I loved the fact that there was respect that life had moved on for both of them - oh but I crossed my fingers that they would reignite what was kindled in Venice.

As in any Jill Mansell book there is a plethora of characters that add depth to the story. In this case their stories don’t just add depth but are integral to the plot. Their stories beautifully stitched together and in enough detail too - Rosa, widowed mother of Didi’s best friend Layla was one of the most beautiful, kind hearted characters I’ve encountered in a long while. Her heart was breaking, yet she still found a place in it to show friendship, kindness and empathy to Red, Shay’s dad - a hardened criminal that despite being ill most other people would have shunned.

Then there was best friend Layla, Rosa’s daughter.  She was adorable, such a trusting, gorgeous character, I absolutely loved reading about her on line dating and budding romance.  However, I was shouting from the sidelines for her to see what was under her nose though. 

The virtual tango of Didi and Shay was at the heart of And Now You’re Back obviously, both honourable in their present lives, but clearly still attracted to each other, drawn like magnets, then repelling each other as life had moved on for both of them - after all, they’re no longer 18 and have their lives mapped out - their story pulled at my heart strings.  There had to be a way to come back together.  Their past and present colliding, had to be fate, secrets from the past are revealed that highlight you shouldn’t make assumptions - not everything or everyone is who they seem.

I loved how Jill counter balanced the more serious, sad parts with humour, romance and wit. Once again I finished a Jill Mansell book with a satisfied sigh, glad that almost everyone seemed to get their happy ending. This is a compelling read, for anybody who loves contemporary, romantic novels, with some serious elements to add depth and bones to the story. It's gentle enough for a quiet Saturday afternoon but with enough plot twists and surprises to keep the pages turning, you'll want to get to the bottom of the many inter woven stories.

Follow the tour: