Monday, 25 September 2023

The Beginning of Everything - Jackie Fraser

About the book… 

The Beginning of Everything is the story of Jess and Gethin, whose paths cross in the most unexpected way. Jess is running, leaving all she knows and everyone she loves behind her, with just a few treasured belongings in her rucksack. She’s escaping from the pain and trauma of a bad relationship with a bad man, gone very badly wrong. Gethin’s kindness and care takes her breath away. They become friends. But with so much hurt in her past, can Jess learn to love and live again?

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About the author… 

Jackie Fraser is the author of The Bookshop of Second Chances and The Beginning of Everything. 

She lives in Hampshire with her partner, and when she's not reading, writing or editing (her day job) you might find her climbing over gates to look at stone circles, taking photographs of rusty things, or poking about in antique shops.

Contact Links: 

My thoughts…

What an absolutely delightful book The Beginning of Everything is. I read this whilst spending time on the Fife coast, with a view of the sea that was ignored as I devoured the pages.

The story centres around unlikely friendships and support in a situation where the full picture wasn’t always visible.  It highlights more than anything that it is always better to seek to understand a person or situation before judging and acting on quick decisions. In life we never see the full picture and it is up to us to take the time to ask questions and discover the why beneath all of our actions both physically and verbally.  

This is the story of Jess and Gethin who meet in unexpected circumstances, Jess living rough seeks shelter in an empty house - shortly after which she is discovered by the new owner of the property Gethin a definite fight or flight situation - fortunately for Jess, Gethin wanted to understand the reasons for Jess needing to break into his new property and offers a gentle hand of support.  

As a reader I absolutely loved both of these characters, their quiet dance around each other as they both open up, learn to trust and grow as individuals.  This wasn’t a one way friendship, from the very start as a reader the scene was set for us, we knew that Jess had a past that led her to live in the way she was but we slowly get to know about Gethin’s past that wasn’t quite so transparent.

I loved the hopefulness that oozed from the pages and found myself quietly praying for each of them when things didn’t always go to plan and see-sewed in the opposite direction.  Trust being the biggest obstacle to overcome, it broke my heart reading several chapters because Jess often couldn’t trust and open up because amongst other reasons she didn’t feel worthy - didn’t think she deserved to live a full life.  Her past experiences having stripped that from her.

I highly recommend this book, it will pull at your heart strings, but warm your heart by the end.  It’s a wonderful example of how friendships, communication, time, openness and trust can repair even the most broken individual to build strong lasting friendships and relationships.  This was a story that made you think about life and our interactions and definitely pulled at my heart strings to begin with and as I turned the last page my heart had done a 360 and left me with a warm fuzzy feeling.

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Thursday, 31 August 2023

Lottie’s School of Dance - Annette Hannah

About the book… 

Lottie Daniels is dancing up the altar in Canada when she realises her whirlwind wedding is a big mistake. Chad isn't the right person for her at all! And, in that moment, Lottie goes from dancing bride to runaway bride.

Much to her brother's relief, Lottie decides to return to Bramblewood in the UK. But life has more surprises in store for her. After rescuing both a donkey and a little old lady called Doris - all with the help of a handsome stranger! - Lottie suddenly becomes a big part of Doris's life. And in return for her company and doing bits around the farm, Doris offers her the barn to run her dance classes.

From broken dreams to second chances, Lottie finally has a chance to rebuild her life. And with an exciting dance audition to prepare for, who knows what might happen next?!

You are guaranteed to fall head over heels with this sweet and charming romance

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About the author… 

I’m originally from Liverpool but now live in leafy Hertfordshire with my husband, two of our three grown up children and our crazy black cocker spaniel Toby. 

My books are set in the fictional market town of Bramblewood and they're inspired by the beautiful countryside that I'm surrounded by. There is always a nod to my home town of Liverpool too.

As well as being an author I am also a qualified Marketeer and Press Officer for the Romantic Novelists' Association, a fabulous organisation of which I am also a member.

Contact Links: 

My thoughts…

What an absolute delight of a book, from the cover to the contents. This was just fabulous, the perfect pick me up for a rainy Bank holiday weekend in the Lake District whilst the sun shone back at home! Ending up back in Bramblewood with some of my favourite characters from Annette’s previous books, including the parrots and the idyllic canal boat cafe - Serendipity was just perfect 💗

Lottie’s School of Dance centres around the lead character Lottie and a whole host of supporting characters that I loved in equal measures. 

We first meet Lottie at the church just as she’s about to marry Chad, her rich, handsome fiancé. Having lost both her parents Chad’s family had stepped in to help organise her wedding - ‘read’ takeover organising her wedding!! As a reader you can feel Lottie’s anxiety rising, going through the roof after seeing her brother in the foyer - despite this she makes her show stopping entrance into the church only to pull up short when she sees the look on her future husbands face, a look equally shared by his mother. She makes a hasty exit reminiscent of Julia Roberts minus the horse.

Lottie leaves her home in Canada to pay a surprise visit to her brother and sister-in-law in Bramblewood, England, the perfect place to quietly lick her wounds, let the dust settle and heal her broken heart. They are beyond excited to see her, but within two minutes of arriving she finds herself being hauled out of a ditch by a handsome, Italian after landing in there trying to rescue a trapped donkey. Both of which come centre stage in the story as Lottie finds herself an unexpected job as surrogate grandchild to Doris who encourages her to take baby steps towards healing her broken heart and inadvertently ending up in a televised dance competition. 

As the story unfolds, relationships of all kinds abound - donkey love, friendships of all kinds, love, loyalty and trust all come together, to see Lottie slowly healing herself without realising it by focusing on and giving love and support to help heal the hearts and lives of those around her. 

As ever with Annette Hannah’s books the characters grab ahold of your heart and I found myself totally buried in the story, believing each and every person and place to be real - I so wish it was, I’d love to be part of this little village, love, friendship and support are at the heart of this gorgeous little community and are given and taken in equal measures by everyone. 

This book has it all it has there’s lots of hearts and flowers and romance as you’d expect but there’s also some serious aspects to the story, as well as tears and sadness that are tempered by total hilarity. I did wonder what animal Annette would introduce into this story before I read it as there is usually a pet that sits centre stage and forward in Annette’s books. How could she top Edie’s parrots - by introducing Denni, Doris’s donkey that how!! 

I loved every single page of this story and was gutted when I finished it. Annette, once again you’ve nailed it. A wonderful read that I highly recommend - now when will we get our next Bramblewood fix - not too long I hope!!

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Monday, 19 June 2023

Maybe Tomorrow - Penny Parkes

About the book… 

A story of friendship, possibilities and hope that maybe tomorrow will be brighter than today . . .

Jamie Matson had once enjoyed a wonderful life working alongside her best friend, organising adventures for single-parent families, and her son Bo’s artistic flair a source of pride rather than concern.

She hadn’t been prepared to lose her business, her home and her friend. Not all in one dreadful year.

Jamie certainly hadn’t expected to find such hope and camaraderie in the queue at her local food bank. Thrown together with an unlikely and colourful group of people, their friendships flourish and, finding it easier to be objective about each other than about themselves, they decide that – when you’re all out of options – it’s okay to bend the rules a little and create your own.

What a difference a year could make . . .

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About the author… 

Penny Parkes lives in the Cotswolds. She has appeared at literary festivals around the country and has written for The Telegraph as well as extensively in her local media.

Contact Links: 

You can find her on Twitter and Instagram as @CotswoldPenny

My thoughts…
Maybe Tomorrow is Penny Parkes newest novel, a story focused on human nature, what can happen when the chips are down. The power of friendship, trust and an open mind.

The story is centred around Jamie Mateson, her son Bo and their struggles to survive in a different world post pandemic. Pre pandemic, Jamie had opened her own travel business, ‘The Big Trip’ which faltered and failed when travel was no longer a possibility. When we first meet Jamie she is bogged down in the relentless cycle of trying to rob Peter to pay Paul, working stacking shelves in an independent food store for a tyrant of a boss with zero empathy. Bo her son, suffers badly from asthma, exasperated by the damp flat they live in, which means missed or late shifts as she spends more and more time in the out patients of the local hospital, something that eventually culminates in her being sacked - forcing her to rely more and more on the local food bank.

Jamie once a highly capable, qualified woman is a shadow of her former self, weighed down with worries. Finding work that allows her to care for Bo was impossible, she doesn’t have the time or headspace to thing of anything other than safeguarding Bo. Just about when they reach rock bottom, given notice on their flat, that quite frankly should be condemned as a health hazard, she’s offered an opportunity that changes both of their lives forever - a chance meeting in the supermarket, and some unexpected friendships and kindness sees cracks appear in the carapace she’d built around herself allowing chinks of her old strength of character through.

This was such a beautiful, heartfelt book, which highlights no matter what, if you are able to give and receive friendship and kindness it can lighten your heart and allow you some clarity of mind - gradually enough to give you strength to make small changes that eventually can become big changes. Watching Jamie, and in particular Bo grow and blossom was beautiful. Bo saw things differently to his peers and expressed himself through his art which spoke louder than words, he was an insightful young man that was misunderstood by many, something which broke my heart as I read this book. As he grew, Jamie was able to have a clearer mind to make decisions and changes to move their lives on - something which was only possible with the support of her newly acquired friends, a group of ladies that met in the queue at the local food bank, each different and in normal circumstances their paths would have been unlikely to cross.

This was another book where Penny Parkes demonstrates that 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. 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.

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

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Monday, 3 April 2023

Hopeful Hearts at the Cornish Cove - Kim Nash

About the book… 

Hopeful Hearts at the Cornish Cove

A perfect new start in Cornwall…

Meredith's life is at a standstill. She's stuck in a dead-end job, approaching fifty, and her dating life is a string of disasters. But one evening, while browsing the internet, she sees an ad for a lighthouse, and in a moment of impulsiveness, she makes a ridiculous bid for it.

With the help of local handyman Clem, she sets about renovating. And as they work together, a bond begins to form. But when Meredith finds out that Clem is keeping a secret from her, it changes everything. Will they find a way to build something more meaningful together?

A delightful story about community, friendship and having the courage to start over, perfect for fans of Carole Matthews, Milly Johnson and Lucy Dillon

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About the author… 

Kim Nash is the author of uplifting, funny, heartwarming, romantic, feel-good fiction. She lives in Staffordshire with son Ollie and English Setter rescue dog Roni, is Digital Publicity Director for publisher Bookouture (division of Hachette UK), and is a book blogger at When she's not working or writing, Kim can be found walking her dog at Cannock Chase, reading, writing and binge-watching box sets on the TV.

Contact Links: 
My thoughts…

Imagine waking up to find, in a drunken moment you’d bought a lighthouse of all things. I had a friend once that bought a hostess trolley whilst drunk - you guessed it, when it arrived it was for a dolls house, how we laughed!!! Meredith had been living with her childhood, best friend Gabby for the past 12 months since getting a divorce from her husband, life was changing for best friend and Meredith needed to move out to give her space so decided to move to Cornwall and live in the accidental purchase. She thought that it would be the perfect fresh start and just what she needed.  

Meredith had surprised not just herself, but her friends too when she packed up and upped sticks.  What couldn’t be more idyllic than living near the beach she thought?  However, her first impressions of the idyllic coastal Cornish town were watered down, when after the journey from hell, her first encounters with the locals were less than pleasant and her beloved furniture that had been in storage for a year wouldn’t fit through the door of the lighthouse - what had she done?!  To top it off she’d clearly been sold a pup!  To say the inside of the lighthouse was less than pleasant would be an understatement, filthy, crumbling and damp smelling - what had she done?

Fortunately, for Meredith, she found that not all the villagers were stand-offish and rude. Gemma, the owner of the local cafe/bakery waltzed into the lighthouse bearing tea and cake at just the right moment - sing singing a welcome to Cornwall. They hit it off instantly and this set in motion a string of events that had me oohing, ahhing, aching laughing and cringing in equal measures.  

The pages of this delightful story are peppered with humour and often laugh out loud one liners - as well as what you always find in a Kim Nash book, a hearty helping of truth and reality.  I absolutely loved it.  Strong friendships both old and new.  Kim Nash has woven the local characters into this story in such a way that I found myself jumping up, wanting to stick my oar in and get in Merediths or ‘Mere’ as the local carpenter/odd job man calls her corner.  I might have frantically searched Rightmove too - I want to move to Cornwall and make friends with everyone too but most of all i want to live in a lighthouse.

I have loved all of Kim’s books but this one is another level, her best yet which I read in one sitting, barely moving position - my coffee going cold on the side.  Thank you for this breath of fresh air, just what the doctor ordered on a miserable Friday evening.  This was a truly, heart warming story that wove a lot of sunshine into my heart. Through Meredith, Kim portrayed that kindness, openness and honesty win the day. This was a positive feel good book that I’m glad I had the opportunity to read, in a busy world a perfect little bit of escapism.

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Wednesday, 8 March 2023

Together Again - Milly Johnson

About the book… 

Sisters Jolene, Marsha and Annis have convened at their beautiful family home, Fox House, following the death of their mother, the tricky Eleanor Vamplew. Born seven years apart, the women are more strangers than sisters.

Jolene, the eldest, is a successful romantic novelist who writes about beautiful relationships even though her own marriage to the handsome and charming Warren is complicated.

Marsha, the neglected middle child, has put all of her energy into her work, hoping money will plug the gap in her life left by the man who broke her young heart.

Annis is the renegade, who left home aged sixteen and never returned, not even for the death of their beloved father Julian. Until now.

So when the sisters discover that their mother has left everything to Annis in her will, it undermines everything they thought they knew. Can saying their final goodbyes to Eleanor bring them together again?

Together, Again is the story of truths uncovered and lies exposed, of secrets told – and kept. It is a novel about sister helping sister to heal from childhood scars and finding in each other support, forgiveness, courage and love.

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About the author… 

Milly Johnson was born in Barnsley, raised in Barnsley and still lives in Barnsley. She writes about strong women, often having a renaissance, all ages and has just released her 20th novel, Together Again. Do check out her latest blog and her website for up to date news and appearance dates.

As well as a novelist she is a professional joke writer, performance poet, newspaper and magazine columnist and also after dinner/motivational speaker which she enjoys doing alongside writing novels.

Contact Links: 

Twitter: @millyjohnson | @simonschusteruk | @ed_pr
Instagram: @themillyjohnson | @simonschusteruk |

My thoughts…

Oh my goodness - where to begin.  Together Again is Milly Johnson’s 20th novel and is something quite special.  Milly always manages to weave reality and characters with real depth that you can relate to into her books but with Together Again she has taken that to another level.

The story is focused on three sisters - Jolene, Marsha and Annis, sisters mainly in name we discover as each of them born seven years apart are near strangers to each other - none more so than Annis who left home and disappeared off the radar some 15 years previous.  They come together, returning to their childhood home Fox House when their mother Eleanor dies. When Annis walks through the door Jolene and Annis are shocked, she never returned for their fathers funeral - why now? Sally close friend and neighbour of their mother Eleanor delivers a letter she left for them, the beginning of which is the opening to the story - Eleanor wants to explain why she was the mother she was, cold, distant and unloving.

As the story unfolds we discover what makes them tick and they discover who they are as individuals and as sisters. Each of them seemingly strong, independent women on the outside but their lives undoubtedly have been shaped by their childhood which in turn shaped their adulthood and the relationships they formed.  There was not much love growing up in Fox House, and as a reader it feels cold and unwelcoming, the heart of the home is definitely missing.  Eleanor clearly wasn’t a naturally warm character - could she make amends from the grave,   I wasn’t so sure but Milly strips back the story like pealing aged wallpaper from the walls - the outer layers glossed over and difficult to penetrate.  

As ever, slowly but surely the sisters and the readers reach an understanding and acceptance of their past, as layer after layer of their past is lifted.  Milly in her usual style tempers the difficult bits with wit, humour and bucket loads of empathy.  The depth of feeling I had for the characters was immense, my heart ached for them and prayed silently for them to find each other, sisters should be close.  These girls weren’t even like friends.  

Their mothers letter is delivered to the reader throughout the book which for me was better than reading it all in one go at the beginning - baby steps were trod as the book got lighter and lighter with both the reader and sisters reaching an understanding and an acceptance as well as the bond that had been missing all their lives.   I just loved this book, I enjoyed the deviation away from Milly Johnson’s usual, style but was glad that the ending was shrouded in happiness and hope, sunshine and light flooding the hearts of both the girls and the house x it was definitely time to move.

This I know is a book that I will return to, to read slowly and read the bits I probably missed on the first read.  Huge thanks to Simon and Schuster for the opportunity to read this amazing book.

Sunday, 22 January 2023

The House That Made Us - Alice Cavanagh

About the book…

One Day meets Up: The House That Made Us is a love story – and a life story – told through a series of photographs and based on a true story

When Mac and Marie marry and find a home of their own, Mac takes a snap of themselves outside their newbuild bungalow, the garden bare and the paint on the front door still wet. It becomes a tradition, this snap, and slowly the photographs build into an album of a fifty-year partnership.

Every year they take a photo and though things change around them – the garden matures, the fashions change, they grow older – the one constant is their love. Every year, come rain, come shine, from the Seventies through the decades, every photo tells the story of their love.

Until the last photo, where the couple becomes one, and their story comes to an end…

Buy Link…                                            
About the author…  Alice Cavanagh was born in Fulham and still lives in London. She writes under a variety of names, including her real name, Bernadette Strachan, and as Juliet Ashton.
Contact Links: Author Page: Simon and Schuster.   Twitter: @Julietstories                                                                                                                    

My thoughts…

Where do I begin, what a book! ‘The House That Made Us’ has to be one of the most incredible moving, emotive and beautiful books that I’ve read in a long time, it will stay will me forever.

At he heart of the story are Mac and Marie who marry and move into their very first home. Mac started a tradition of taking a photograph of them both outside their house every year on their anniversary which tell the story of their life together and absolute undying love for each, their hopes and dreams for the future.

I absolutely loved Mac and Marie, the unconditional love and stability they gave each other and to their extended family and friends literally oozed from the pages. I do have to say their house was definitely not a house it was most certainly a HOME. A home that wrapped itself around them and around those close to them. The love and kindness was embedded into the very fabric of the building.

They always looked ahead to the future, saving what they could to fulfil their distant dreams. Time after time their hopes, plans and dreams abandoned but never forgotten just as they were about to be fulfilled, whenever life through them a curve ball - never feeling bitter when their lives unexpectedly changed direction and followed a different track. I loved that they shared the same thoughts and opinions, each thinking things through independently, coming to a decision and then finding they were aligned when they they shared them with each other, they truly were two of the most selfless people I’ve read about.

I absolutely loved reading their story, spanning fifty years from the 70’s - so many memories brought to life by the anniversary photo’s that became the album of their lives. The story resonating just a little bit more for me, as I was a child growing up in the 70’s and reading Mac and Marie’s story sparked distant memories of how life was back then pre the digital age.

I could say so much more but don’t want to spoil such a special story for others. This was the last book I read of 2022 and I would say if you haven’t already had the pleasure of being a fly on the wall of the most beautiful life story of Mac and Marie you need to clear your day and dive right in you won’t be disappointed. They definitely got it right in life - love, kindness and happiness trumping material gains every time!

Thursday, 12 January 2023

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

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.