Blog Tour: Coming Home to Holly Close Farm by Julie Houston 

About the Author: 


Julie Houston is the author of THE ONE SAVING GRACE, GOODNESS, GRACE AND ME and LOOKING FOR LUCY, a Kindle top 100 general bestseller and a Kindle #1 bestseller. She is married, with two teenage children and a mad cockerpoo and, like her heroine, lives in a West Yorkshire village. She is also a teacher and a magistrate.

 

Follow Julie:

 

Twitter: @juliehouston2

 

Facebook: @JulieHoustonauthor

 

About the Book:

Charlie Maddison loves being an architect in London, but when she finds out her boyfriend, Dominic, is actually married, she runs back to the beautiful countryside of Westenbury and her parents.

 

Charlie’s sister Daisy, a landscape gardener, is also back home in desperate need of company and some fun. Their great-grandmother, Madge – now in her early nineties – reveals she has a house, Holly Close Farm, mysteriously abandoned over sixty years ago, and persuades the girls to project manage its renovation.

 

As work gets underway, the sisters start uncovering their family’s history, and the dark secrets that are hidden at the Farm.

 

A heart-breaking tale of wartime romance, jealousy and betrayal slowly emerges, but with a moral at its end: true love can withstand any obstacle, and, before long, Charlie dares to believe in love again, too……

My Review: 

Charlie Maddison loves her work as an architect in London, but then something happens in her life that brings her happiness in life skidding to a halt. She and her boyfriend Dominic were living together and things were good. When she finds out he’s married, she gets on the train with her belongings and does not look back.

Her destination? Westenbury, the town of her childhood and the home of her parents. Charlie’s sister Daisy is overjoyed when she’s back together with her sister.

Things get interesting when their great-grandmother Madge lets on she has an abandoned house which is Holly Close Farm, the sisters take a look at the place and the renovations begin.

Coming Home to Holly Close Farm has family’s history, and dark secrets. There’s wartime romance, jealousy and betrayal. All this is expertly weaved in around a story of family relationships and being together again after being taken in different directions by life.

Julie Houston writes brilliantly and the relationships are realistic. The bond between sisters, as well as the interaction with the family. I really like Charlie and Daisy. There’s sisterly banter and humour in some places amongst the plot of the story too which lightens the mood a bit yet the story is very dramatic and the pace just made me want to continue. There are happy and sad times akin to real life and I felt for Charlie and Daisy and was happy to see them together. The sense of family is very strong throughout the novel and there’s mystery at the beginning which had me hooked. That was a very clever way of revealing what was to come for Charlie and what would push her away from London and back home.

The book is about taking chances, making sacrifices no matter how hard it hurts.

Thanks to Julie Houston and Aria for my ARC in exchange for an honest and voluntary review as well as my blog tour slot. 4 stars for this one because in some parts the pacing was slower than others, but overall a very good novel.

This is not the first book I have reviewed by Julie Houston, I really enjoyed A Village Affair too.

Buy links:

Amazon: http://amzn.eu/d/2Q4hjjW

Kobo: http://bit.ly/2SunhcY

iBooks: https://apple.co/2rmy9OL

Google Play: http://bit.ly/2Ul2evq

Mum?’

‘Charlie? Hello, darling. Dad and I were just talking about you.’

‘Mum, can I come home for a bit?’

‘What, for the weekend you mean?’

‘A bit longer than that, possibly. Probably.’

‘Of course you can come home. You know that.’ Mum sounded surprised as well she might. I suddenly realised with a slight jolt that not only had I not been back to Yorkshire for a good six months, I’d not rung home for ages either. ‘Dad and I were only just saying we needed to have a trip down to London to see you. How’s Dominic? Is everything OK?’

‘I’ll tell you when I see you.’

‘So, when are you thinking of coming up then?’

‘Er, like now?’

‘Now? Today? This evening? Oh, right. Lovely. And is Dominic with you? Are you both up for the weekend?’

‘Oh, Mum.’

‘Charlie, what is it?’

‘Mum, can you pick me up? The train gets in at ten thirty.’ I paused. ‘And can you come in Dad’s car rather than yours? I’ve got rather a lot of stuff with me.’ I glanced at the bin bags perched in a neat row on the overhead luggage rack like a flock of particularly malevolent crows.

‘Right, darling. What time did you say? I was just about to watch that new drama with Cummerbund Benderbatch…’ She paused and I could almost hear her brain clicking into gear. ‘That’s not right, is it? Oh, you know who I mean. I’ll go and make sure your bed’s made up. Will you have eaten?’

I didn’t think I’d ever be able to eat again. I could certainly drink, though. I rang off and made my way down the carriages until I found the buffet bar and bought three little plastic bottles of wine.

I worked my way methodically down all three bottles, glaring at the man opposite so that he gets the message that conversation was definitely not on the menu. I tried Dominic’s number again and again, only to hear the three little beeps verifying no such number was in existence. Well, I could still email him. I couldn’t see him getting rid of that so easily: he’d need it for work.

You bastard, Dominic Abraham.
That was after the first bottle of wine…

You lying, cheating, tosser bastard.
Two down and I was on a roll.

And yes, Dominic, size does matter. It must be down to all the double exercise it’s been getting lately. Obviously wearing away.
That little drunken tirade accompanied the final plastic bottle.

I finally drained my glass and looked tipsily out of the window. We were heading towards Doncaster and, as we went through a tunnel, my reflection stared back at me. Is this what I’d come to? Several years in London doing a job I loved and had trained for and I was heading back home to Midhope, tail between my legs. Nearly thirty and back home to my mum and dad. No home, no job, no man but, instead, five black bin bags to show for seven years’ training as an architect. And then another three in London working for one architectural company before being interviewed by Dominic Abraham eleven months ago and landing the job in property development which I loved and which I was jolly good at.

As we pulled into Wakefield, I stood on my seat and started hauling down my bags.

‘Here, love, let me help you.’ The man opposite stood and pulled down the last two bags but the final and fullest bag split, its innards of unwashed bras, pants and work shirts, obviously scooped up from the laundry basket, spilling onto the floor, the seats below and, unfortunately, the balding heads of two elderly men nodding their way towards Leeds.

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Blog Tour: Summer on the Italian Lakes by Lucy Coleman

About the Author: 

 Lucy lives in the Forest of Dean in the UK with her lovely husband and Bengal cat, Ziggy. Her novels have been short-listed in the UK’s Festival of Romance and the eFestival of Words Book Awards. Lucy won the 2013 UK Festival of Romance: Innovation in Romantic Fiction award.

 

Follow Lucy:

 

Twitter: @LucyColemanAuth

 

Facebook: @LinnBHaltonAuthor

 

About the Book:
The feel-good read of 2019, perfect for fans of Lucy Diamond and Karen SwanBestselling

 

Brianna Middleton has won the hearts of millions of readers with her sweeping – and steamy – love stories. But the girl behind the typewriter is struggling…. Not only does she have writer’s block, but she’s a world-famous romance author with zero romance in her own life.

 

So the opportunity to spend the summer teaching at a writer’s retreat in an idyllic villa on the shores of Lake Garda – owned by superstar author Arran Jamieson – could this be just the thing to fire up Brie’s writing – and romantic – mojo?

 

Brie’s sun-drenched Italian summer could be the beginning of this writer’s very own happy-ever-after…

 

Escape the January blues with this sun-drenched, heart-warming story from the bestselling author of Snowflakes Over Holly Cove. What readers are saying about Lucy Coleman…

Where to Buy:

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2M9bQFF

Kobo: http://bit.ly/2RpOXDQ

iBooks: https://apple.co/2Md3soU

Google Play: http://bit.ly/2Mba8DC

My Review: 

 
Brie is an author who is struggling after a breakup from Paul and right from the beginning, Lucy Coleman gets us inside Brie’s head, but not just with relationship-themed thoughts however. We see her plight as an author which, since I myself have drafted various books over the years, found incredibly interesting and I was absorbed by it. I love her character. She is so honest, sensitive, realistic but strong and likeable.

As someone who has their own writing process, I identified with the struggle to find a writing-life balance. Brie gives some useful life advice as she fights against her oen personal demons with the help of her great friend Mel, who I liked also as I found she was so supportive and enjoyed seeing how she helped Brie love herself again. Makeovers and clothes are my thing, so I was hooked and, as a person whose own weight has yoyoed over the years and who decided to make the right choices regarding food and exercise, I found myself cheering out loud as Brie started to focus less on Paul and more on her self care goals.

When her publisher/ agent suggests a writing retreat, Brie isn’t sure. She’s used to her “style of life” – writing for hours and lounging in her PJs in her cosy cottage. But, she’s convinced that if she made one change she can make another and so finds herself on a plane to Italy and staying at a beautiful villa on the shores of Lake Garda. It’s not just any villa, but the home of author Arran. Genres and lives merge here and it’s clear to see that that is a good place to start with the conversation when they first meet. As with all great books, I will leave this review up to the reader’s imagination and just say that I adored this book so much. I felt like, in Brie, Lucy Coleman really epitomised what it is like to seriously get down to it and write a book, whether it gets published or not.

The ins and outs of Brie’s writing process gave this book an edge that no other romance has. It is not slushy. It is not predictable. It is so realistic and in Brie, I saw myself. The passion for writing, the meticulous process and the relaxation in the pampering. The thrill of reinventing yourself. I felt like I was traveling with Brie in more ways than one, learning more about another’s writing proccess although she was a character in a book. To me, she and Arran were so real.

Summer on the Italian Lake is fun, realistic and relaxing. I have mever been on any writing retreat (except a virtual one in the form of NaNoWriMo) and I loved sharing in Brie and Arran’s life. Italy comes to life and I loved it when Brie and Arran were involved in organisung the retreat and even more when Brie helped out……

As a lot of this is about writing and the writing process, I am not sure it is a book for everyone who likes, and is expecting, a clear-cut romance. Because it’s not. I definitely feel it will appeal more to you if you are an author or dabbling in writing yourself.

Summer on the Italian Lake is the third book by Lucy Coleman that I have reviewed after A French Adventure and Snowflakes over  Holly Cove.

As with any book with a setting in Italy, the food and scenery are spectacular. There’s a whole host of different characters (both characters in this book as well as Brie’s romances and Arran’s history books) to add richness to the plot. As with all of Lucy Coleman’s novels, you will fall in love with this. I know I did.

Huge thanks to Lucy Coleman and Aria for my ARC in exchange for an honest and voluntary review and I’m thrilled to be on the blog tour for this book. 5 stunning stars. I cannot wait to review more by Lucy Coleman.

To finish this post, here’s an extract from this wonderful book!

Just being around Paul was intoxicating at first because he was so attentive and it made me feel special. Until the paparazzi started snapping less than flattering photos, which seemed to prove I didn’t have one single good angle on me. Or a way of getting out of a car elegantly, even though by then I was a whole stone lighter. Slowly it began to erode my confidence whenever I was out and about with him.
Then, to my shame, the press started comparing me to Paul’s former girlfriends. They even congratulated him on the fact that the size of a woman’s thighs clearly didn’t bother him. I mean, how dare they? Amply proportioned was one of the terms used and that was only the start of the fat-shaming. But I wasn’t fat. I was a size twelve for goodness’ sake, and I’m never going to be stick thin. Nor do I want to be. But freedom of speech is a dangerous thing and it was impossible to stem the flow, or even correct the lies.
Worse was to come and that’s when I began reaching for the family size chocolate bars. For the first time in my life I regretted not writing under a pen name. As soon as Paul introduced me to someone and they heard the name Brianna Middleton, I swear their eyes would open wide in surprise.
‘Not the author?’ They’d query. Or, ‘Really?’ with that little lift in their voice implying I wasn’t what they were expecting at all.
If I thought that was bad, what happened next was a disaster. The name calling and trolling on Twitter sent me into panic mode. The whole world could see these very personal attacks and virtually all of them were about my appearance.
‘Have you seen the latest?’ I’d screeched down the phone at Mel one morning in a traumatised state.
‘No. But it’s only jealousy, Brie, anyway. They’re the ones who look pathetic and you shouldn’t take it to heart.’ Her empathy had been real, but her grasp of the situation was tenuous.
‘Okay – and I quote: “Seriously??? She needs a stylist… Poor Paul.” Then someone named CutieSue: “Another clinger-on. Book sales must be down lol!” Even the guys, MDR53 says: “Dude, what’s happening – is this a joke? Sizeable ass going on there.” And this! Pussykins1982: “Who do you think you are, lady? One burger too many in that dress.” There are whole threads, laughing and joking over the footage of me getting my coat caught in that revolving door! Someone has even posted a video clip of it on a continual loop set to music.’ I’d gasped, as my lungs ran out of air and I began to hyperventilate.
The clip made it look like I was simply too wide to get through the doorway because of the angle. The reality was that the hem of my coat jammed between the inner and outer revolving walls and the mechanism ground to a halt. With five paparazzi snapping away the other side of the glass, and my face getting redder by the moment as I tugged and tugged, it wasn’t a pretty sight.
Mel had been speechless and all she could do was to try and calm me down, saying eventually the haters would tire and I’d become old news.
I got it. Paul was a heartthrob; meltingly gorgeous and he only had to roll out of bed in the morning, grab a wrinkled T-shirt off the floor and he looked amazing. Even better when he forgot to shave, which he often did because he knew it made women’s jaws drop. It’s too easy for men, isn’t it?
Me? Well, I kept up my daily exercise regime to convince myself I was on the right track. But, once more, my cupboard was brimming over with the very things I knew I shouldn’t be eating.
I was also back and forth to the beauty salon waxing bits of me I hadn’t glanced at in a long while and wearing the weirdest nail combos going. Blingy bits aren’t really me and it was an utter nightmare typing, letting alone pulling up my leggings. But I felt the need to make myself better in some way to justify Paul’s attention. The irony was that he didn’t seem aware of the agonies I was going through. He seemed to like me the way I was, but I didn’t like me the way I was and neither did the haters, or the press.
I felt a little like Cinderella. The excitement of being a part of Paul’s life was rather like going to a big party you’ve been looking forward to for ages. As the night draws to a close, though, you simply want to crawl under the duvet and sleep for hours and hours. I ran out of steam. The negativity overwhelmed me and I stopped trying. In fact, I did the reverse. It wasn’t one slice of cake, it was the whole cake and it showed. Quickly I gained back the stone in weight that I’d lost and added another eight pounds to that. My daily jog was now a slow walk.

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Blog Tour: What Happens in France by Carol Wyer

Title: What Happens in France

 

Author Name: Carol Wyer

 

Previous Books (if applicable): TBC

 

Genre: Women’s Fiction

 

Release Date: 28th January 2019

 

Cover Image:

Book Blurb:

She stood and took her place in front of the camera… It was now or never”
Bryony Masters has been looking for her long-lost sister, Hannah, for years, but when their father has a stroke her search takes on new urgency. So when primetime game show, What Happens in France, puts a call-out for new contestants, Bryony spots the ultimate public platform to find her reality TV-obsessed sister, and finally reunite their family.

With the help of handsome teammate Lewis, it’s not long before she’s on a private jet heading for the stunning beauty of rural France. With a social media star dog, a high maintenance quiz host and a cast of truly unique characters, Bryony and Lewis have their work cut out for them to stay on the show and in the public eye.

Yet as the audience grows and the grand prize beckons they find that the search that brought them together may just fulfil more than one heart’s wish…

This heartwarming romantic comedy of friendship, family and laugh-out-loud adventures is perfect for fans of Kirsty Greenwood, Colleen Coleman and Marian Keyes.

My Review:

I was introduced by this book’s title so downloaded it straight away. The cover is very eye catching and I was hooked by the synopsis. However, as soon as I started it I realised that the book has very sad undercurrents, with Bryony’s father’s health being far from good because of a stroke. I have my own chronic health issues and live with disabilities so I immediately identified with the family.

I’m a very sensitive person and was very moved by the sadness that Bryony’s father’s stroke caused her and her mum. I just wanted to appear in the book and hug them. On top of that, Bryony’s sister Hannah has not been part of the family since she went missing at age 16, which was 30 years ago. I found Bryony’s attempts to search for her humbling and was touched by the blog entries she wrote. The tone in which they were written was as if she were talking to her sister face to face and were moving and at times frank and very true to life.

Hannah was a real fan of reality TV shows and Bryony sees the game show, What Happens in France, as an opportunity to find Hannah and finally reunite the family.

She and team mates Lewis jet off to rural France to participate. There, Bryony sees she is in for a real adventure. Will she and Lewis hit it off? Is love on the cards and will she find Hannah? Read this if you want to know. Bryony is courageous, strong driven and pours her heart into everything she does. There’s a real sense of the importance of family in this novel which I loved and it really begs the question: What would you do to reunite your family?

The book will make you feel, think, smile and cry. Such an amazing tale. The writing just flows so well too.

What happens in France was suspenseful, sweet and, far from being a slushy romance, I’d say it is “a romance with edge.” The plot has an excellent pace and so many layers. This was the perfect introduction to Carol Wyer’s books for me and I really want to discover more of her books. 5 stars.

Thanks to Carol Wyer and Canelo for my ARC in exchange for an honest and voluntary review and my blog tour slot for this title.
Links to Book:
Amazon (UK)

Kobo (UK)

Google Books (UK)

Apple Books (UK)

Author Bio:


As a child Carol Wyer was always moving, and relied on humour to fit in at new schools. A funny short story won her popularity, planting the seed of becoming a writer. Her career spans dry cleaning, running a language teaching company, and boxercise coaching. Now writing full-time, Carol has several books published and journalism in many magazines.

Carol won The People’s Book Prize Award for non-fiction (2015), and can sometimes be found performing her stand-up comedy routine Laugh While You Still Have Teeth.

Twitter: @carolewyer

CHAPTER ONE

THURSDAY, 6 JULY – AFTERNOON

 

Bryony drew up outside Melinda’s house. The gaily coloured yellow front door stood out boldly among the row of identical houses, all of which had brown doors. The door was much like Melinda herself. Melinda was a one-off and she didn’t much care if others thought her odd or different. It was one of the things Bryony loved about her. In Bryony’s opinion, her friend’s front door was far more inviting than the others in the street. Someone – no doubt Sean’s father – had planted clumps of marigolds in the garden. A grinning garden gnome in a ridiculous costume and bright red hat dangled his rod into the flowers. The wooden sign hanging from a nail on the front door read: ‘Forget the Dog. Beware of the Wife,’ adding to the impression that this was a house filled with fun and frivolity.

Bryony rang the doorbell and waited. The door opened wide and there stood Melinda, a huge smile on her round face as always. Her smooth chestnut bob clung to her head like a helmet but her large brown eyes sparkled with youthful enthusiasm.

‘Come in,’ she said, wiping her hands on a faded tea towel. ‘You’ve arrived at just the right time. I’ve finished putting the final touches on the casserole and it’s ready to go in the oven. We’d best go in the kitchen. Freddie’s off school. He had a temperature this morning so I let him stay at home. He’s been playing with his Lego again and there are bricks everywhere in the lounge. I daren’t clean in there. Sean had to fix the vacuum cleaner last time because I hoovered up several yellow bricks and they got stuck in the pipe. Anyway, I’ve finished my housewifely chores and am ready for a glass of wine. Make that a very large glass of wine. Care to join me?’

‘It’s only one o’clock,’ protested Bryony.

‘And? You haven’t got to go back to work, so why not?’

Bryony laughed. ‘Only a small one. I have to drive, remember.’

Melinda led the way into the kitchen, a friendly space that oozed warmth and contentment. The fridge was covered with plastic letters spelling ‘Freddie’, ‘Mummy’ and ‘Daddy’. Several drawings had been added to the side of it: one of a large sun shining over a house, one of a large dinosaur and another of three stick figures holding hands. Plastic animals adorned the shelf above the sink and a piece of pottery showcasing the small handprint of a child took pride of place; next to it stood a photograph of a grinning boy with dark hair and chocolate-brown eyes who looked exactly like his mother.

Melinda swept away small pots of herbs into a cupboard and extracted two glasses from another, all the while moving plates and pans into the sink so they were out of view. Bryony sniffed the air. It smelt of warm dough and lemon essence. A rack of scones stood cooling next to a sponge cake. Melinda had indeed been busy.

The bright room was dominated by a huge dining table protected by a plastic, floral tablecloth. A chubby face peered out from under the table.

‘Hello, Briny.’

‘Hello, Freddie. What are you doing under the table?’

‘I’m not under the table. I’m in a boat. This is my sky,’ replied the boy, solemn-faced, pointing to the underside of the kitchen table. ‘It’s night-time. I’ve been travelling all day. I’m sailing to Zanzibar.’

Bryony lifted the cloth to get a closer look. Freddie was seated in a large cardboard box, his mother’s egg whisk in one hand and red spatula in the other, ‘paddling’ from one end of the table to the other. He wore a pirate’s hat made of newspaper and somebody had painted a black moustache under his nose.

‘Are you looking for treasure?’ asked Bryony.

The boy shook his head. ‘I’m looking for a new country to live in. Daddy says he’s fed up of this one,’ he said then set about rocking his body to make the box slide along the floor. Melinda shrugged her shoulders in a display of astonishment and passed a glass of wine to Bryony. Melinda took a sip and sighed with pleasure. Freddie crawled out from under the table and handed Bryony his whisk.

‘Mummy, I’m going to get my dinosaurs. They want to go to Zanzibar too,’ he shouted as he scurried off.

‘Zanzibar?’ Bryony said.

‘I’ve no idea where that came from. Maybe it was from one of his bedtime books. I expect it’s sunny there and the roads have no potholes. Sean spent an hour complaining about the state of the roads last night. He hit an extra-large pothole on his way home. I don’t think the van’s too damaged but Sean wasn’t happy. He went on about England being a third-world country and grumbled that we should all move to a better one. He wasn’t serious but obviously our little earwigging child decided he was.’ She slugged back the remainder of her wine. ‘I needed that. It’s been a long day. I envy these younger mums. It’s tough racing after a hyperactive five-year-old when you’re well into your thirties.’

‘You do a fantastic job. Freddie is a credit to you. He’s a well-balanced, healthy boy and that’s all down to your parenting skills. You’re always there for him and you spend loads of time with him. You’re a fantastic mother.’

Melinda blushed. ‘Being a mother wasn’t exactly what I planned but it is the best job ever,’ she admitted.

‘Who’d have thought the career-minded, hard-nosed Melinda Ashbrook would become a full-time mother, eh?’

‘Less of the hard-nosed, thank you. I loved being a crime scene investigator but I’m so lucky to be in a situation where I get to be a stay at home mum.’

Singing from the room next door indicated Freddie had now abandoned his plans to row to Zanzibar and was watching television.

Bryony regarded her friend, whose face had taken on the look of maternal pride that accompanied a child’s achievement. There was no doubt that Sean and Freddie had transformed her. Bryony recalled the first time Melinda had brought Sean back to their flat, eyes glittering with mischief but still nervous in his ill-fitting suit he’d worn to impress them both.

Sean had succeeded in exposing Melinda’s gentler side that hitherto had been well and truly concealed. Being the only daughter in a family of four boys, and the youngest sibling to boot, she had learnt to stand up for herself at an early age and give away nothing in the emotion department. Her brothers had signed up for the Armed Forces but Melinda had followed in their grandfather’s footsteps, studied forensic science, and become a crime scene investigator with the police force.

Bryony had all the time in the world for her friend. Without her, Bryony’s time at school would have been even more horrendous than it already was. Melinda had been her friend and protector on more than one occasion, and in return Bryony had offered her unwavering affection and friendship that would always stand the test of time.

Melinda pointed at the small television screen on the wall above the kitchen table. ‘Ooh! Turn it up, Bry. It’s Professor David Potts, the gorgeous host of Mate or Date? Now, I wouldn’t kick him out of bed. He could charm me with that Irish lilt of his alone. Makes me go weak at the knees thinking about it.’

‘Behave yourself, woman. You’re happily married to Sean. If anyone should be thinking about such nonsense, it’s me.’ She pointed the remote at the set. ‘You’re right though. Professor Potts is absolutely divine. Lovely accent, piercing blue eyes, charisma. I wouldn’t want to be on a dating show but I’d happily spend all night listening to him explain the Theory of Relativity or even the offside rule in football. He is one very sexy man.’

Bryony turned up the volume and both women watched Professor Potts talking about the importance of protecting elephants in the wild. Once it was over, Melinda turned off the set.

‘I’d definitely trade in Sean for that man. He makes my toes tingle.’

Bryony laughed again. ‘That’s never going to happen. You and Sean are soulmates. I can’t imagine you ever trading him in. You and he are great together.’

‘We are, although some days I feel like I need an adventure – a whole new sexual adventure. A girl can dream, can’t she?’

‘Get a grip, woman. You two should spend more time together, without Freddie. Remind yourselves of what it was that attracted you to each other. Freddie arrived so quickly after you got together you didn’t have many opportunities to enjoy life as a couple. Why not have a date night? I’ll babysit Freddie for you.’

‘You and your sensible suggestions. You’re right, of course. We ought to light candles, play soft music and rip each other’s clothes off with unbridled lust but to be honest we’re both a bit tired these days. My mind is willing but my flesh is wobbly and not up for it. Talking of babysitting Freddie – he’ll be staying over at my mum’s at the weekend. He loves Granny Brigitte. She cooks him pancakes and lets him eat jelly beans. So, do you fancy coming around for booze, crisps and a bit of a murder mystery game?’

Bryony shook her head. ‘Shouldn’t you and Sean be enjoying some time together? Alone.’

‘Nah, honestly we’re fine. I’m crazy about Sean. And we see enough of each other. If I needed time away with him, I’d take it. The grandparents are always willing to have Freddie. It’s me. I don’t like parting with Freddie or being away from him.’

Bryony felt a small pang of envy. Although she didn’t begrudge her friend any happiness, she would like to have experienced the same herself.

‘A murder mystery night will do us both good. Sean bought me the game for Christmas. It’ll give us the chance to open it at last. Go on. Remember the fun we had when we did them way back in Birmingham?’

‘Okay. Why not?’

Melinda beamed at her. ‘It’ll be a hoot. Maybe I’ll arrange it so I get to be the elegant lady of the manor who is looking for a bit of rough and passionate sex with the gardener. Don’t worry, I’ll make sure Sean is the gardener,’ she added, shutting her eyes and tilting her head back, playing out her fantasy in her mind. ‘He could be one of those beefcake sorts – strong, silent, muscular. I’m liking this idea already.’

‘Is it a murder mystery night or a weird sexual fantasy version of events?’

Melinda ignored the comment and said, ‘We could all do with a fun night. I’ll phone around and arrange it. I’m sure I can rustle up a few guests at short notice. There’s the new chap, Lewis, who moved in a couple of months ago.’

Bryony’s mouth opened in surprise. ‘You’re trying to match me up with someone again, aren’t you?’

Melinda giggled. ‘Might be. And why not? You’re young – thirty-six is still classified as young – free and single. He appears to be on his own too. He’s renting number forty-one, the Shepherds’ place. I’ve waved hello but not spoken to him. Sean met him at the gym a couple of weeks ago. They both like running, so Sean’s enjoyed having someone to talk to while he jogs along on the treadmill. It makes the time go quicker. He says Lewis is a really good guy with a quirky sense of humour.’

‘That’s a good start. I bet he won’t like me though. The last guy I went out with said I surrounded myself with an invisible, impenetrable force and I frightened him.’

‘When you stop trying to do a million things at once, you might actually meet someone. You’re always too occupied to get involved.’

Bryony pursed her lips but gave up the idea of arguing. Her friend was right. She wondered if she didn’t deliberately keep herself occupied to avoid meeting men. She rubbed at her forehead, her fingers lightly grazing the scar there, hidden now by a fringe but still evident when her hair fell away from her face. ‘Okay. Count me in for the party. I could do with a laugh.’

‘Great! I’ll get onto it immediately.’

Blog Tour: The Chance  of a Lifetime by Kendra Smith 

About the Author: 

Kendra Smith has been a journalist, wife, mother, aerobics teacher, qualified diver and very bad cake baker. She started her career in Sydney selling advertising space but quickly made the leap to editorial – and went on to work on several women’s magazines in both Sydney and London. With dual Australian-British nationality, she currently lives in Surrey with her husband and three children.

 

Follow Kendra:

Twitter: @KendraAuthor

Facebook: @kendrasmithauthor

 

About the Book:

 

A new life down under? It’s not as perfect as you’d think.

 

Katie and Tom’s marriage is in trouble. As is their bank account. So, when Tom tells Katie that they need to talk, she knows it must be about one of two things, and neither are good. But when he blind-sides her saying that his boss is sending him to Australia – permanently – Katie realises it might just be what they need to save their marriage.
Trouble is, she doesn’t like the heat, can’t swim and hates spiders. Not to mention the bouts of homesickness – and Tom’s endless business trips. Katie is finding the hope of saving their marriage slowly slipping through her fingers. But Katie is determined to take the bull by the horns – and her Speedos by the strap – and tackles her new life.
When all is said and done which side of the globe will she decide to call home?
‘An entertaining, fast-moving, page-turner for anyone dreaming of a new life’ Jane Corry, best-selling author of Her Dead Ex.
Previously published as Jacaranda Wife.

My Review: 

I was really looking forward to this based on the synopsis and title. It sounded promising and the cover is amazing. It’s the most eye-catching part of the book. Colourful and exotic.

I felt the first chapters were rushed and thought Katie, a mother and wife, was immature and self-centred Instead of accepting her family’s move and new life in Australia due to her husband Tom being transferred there and also a way to help sort out debt problems.

The people I most felt for in the book, in fact, were their young children. Their excitement on the flight from London to Sydney was realistic and palpable.

I felt Katie was neurotic, paranoid and even childlike a lot of the time and especially when visiting the kids’ new school for the first time. It was understandable that she’d compare things to England but that wore me down quickly.

She seemed spoilt and ungrateful from the moment they set foot on Australian soil and I kind of wished she’d stayed in London in the house she so clearly loved and near the friends she liked. being around. I felt the book was too one-sided with her POV and that Tom was too passive and accepting of her in many situations.

I’d have loved to have got more of an insight into her and Tom’s characters, personalities feelings motivations-but the positive side of things. I didn’t get many good vibes from either character. Both were not honest people and manipulative in their own way in life and love. I don’t want to give too much away on this and feel you need to read the book for yourself to get a real sense of what they are like and their pasts.

A problem I had was that the descriptions of the surroundings felt rushed. When I am faced with a novel set in a different country and about moving to a different culture I expect to see, live and breathe that culture through the book’s words. I felt pulled out of the story like I was an observer rather than immersed in it and living Katie’s adventures and struggles. I felt so much more could have been made of the descriptions of the house, school and everywhere they went in general so that the essence of Australia is captured through imagery.

I’ve reviewed a lot of this type of book yet seen in others that the scenery and lifestyle will just take my breath away I will root for the characters, admire them laugh and cry with them, almost live their lives with them and the whole book will be so powerful I’ll be sad to finish and want to dive into it again or herald it as my best book of the year and be itching to tell everyone I know to read it.

This is not that book. I just feel like it could be so much more powerful and engrossing. I got some type of feeling for what it was like to move all the way to Australia, and identified as I have some family there. I have never been and felt even the initial move could have been made more emotional in this book.

Thanks to Kendra Smith and Aria for my ARC in exchange for an honest and voluntary review and a chance to take part in the blog tour for this title. 3-3.5 stars.

CHAPTER ONE

 

Katie’s eyes roamed round the pantry as her mind processed its own inventory. Beans? Yes. Adulterer? That’s a bit harsh, your honour. Filter coffee? Half a packet. Unfaithful? You could call it that. French stick? Might have that for supper. Marriage vows? Need to review. Feeling sick about what you did? Definitely. Great sexual thrill. You bet.

‘Sweetie?’ Katie jumped. Her husband Tom was standing by the pantry door, peering at her.

‘You’re home early!’

‘We need to talk.’ He stared right at her. Oh God, not a ‘need to talk’ moment. Does he suspect? I didn’t actually do very much … She forced a cheery smile. But it soon slipped right off her face.

‘What’s wrong, Tom?’

‘Been repositioned.’ He looked about five years old. He was adorable. ‘Like I said might happen.’

‘Repositioned?’ The voice didn’t sound like hers. ‘Where?’

‘Australia,’ he said, as if in a dream. ‘Sydney.’ She stared at him, felt shivery, then walked past him and went upstairs and threw up in their brand new Villeroy and Bosh toilet. She’d never liked heat and spiders.

‘Why Australia?’ she had asked quietly, downstairs again, staring into his intense grey eyes. Sitting white-faced in their farmhouse kitchen, clutching her paper napkin and looking round at their beautifully painted duck-egg blue walls, the black and white photos, the blown glass ornaments on the shelf from Italy, shining with a multi-coloured halo from the spotlight below, noticing the dust, the mundane things while the rest of her head was in a spin. Like when my father died, she thought, all I could do was keep loading the dishwasher and watch baked beans slide off the plates – as if I could keep the stabbing pain away by worrying about how to clean the filter. Tom paced up and down the wooden floors, his suede brogues making loud clipping noises.

‘Do you mean the E word …’ her world was crashing around her. ‘Emigrate …’ Katie whispered, slightly hysterical by then, the napkin pink paper shreds. ‘We’ve just had all this done,’ her voice trailed off, her hand gesturing to the granite work surfaces, the wooden floor, the gleaming glass extension which had robbed the garden of at least six metres. But in fact who cared what they’d had done to the kitchen? She wasn’t really terrified about leaving granite work surfaces, what she was terrified about was leaving her house, her home, England, Britain …

‘K-A-T-I-E.’ Tom said her name in a very slow, deliberate way. ‘Martin has just offered me a job as head of New Asian Markets for Trent Financial – he says it’s exactly up my street, says my CV is perfect. He told me, Katie, that at 47, I don’t have many options,’ he closed his eyes, leant his head back, clutched the grey granite work surface. Suddenly, his eyes snapped open again. He stared at her. ‘It’s a great salary and they’ll pay all our moving costs. It’s not emigration, it’s,’ he hesitated, ‘for a few years, a contract. An opportunity, that’s what it is,’ he smiled shakily at her. He’s trying to be his usual self, his Alpha male, mused Katie. An opportunity for him maybe, but we might as well have been a job offer to Pluto; she felt like she couldn’t breathe.

‘But shouldn’t we -’

‘What? Wait for me to get another job? The country’s in a total recession,’ he folded his arms. ‘Bankers are getting fired everywhere Katie, don’t you see?’ he sighed. ‘We are mortgaged up to the neck – especially with the bloody extra borrowing on the extension -’ She scraped her chair back, guiltily, remembering the cost.

‘You wanted it as much as me. Wanted to show off to all your clients …’ she whispered.

‘Katie, sweetheart – I’ve had a hell of a day,’ he said sweeping his fringe from his forehead and looking across at her. The look said don’t challenge me; don’t knock me when I’ve been kicked in the balls today and have managed to come up for air already. It said don’t try me when we are up to our necks in debt and I feel like I’m drowning.
Where to Buy:

Kobo: http://bit.ly/2TkRXha

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2LMvVkZ

Google Play: http://bit.ly/2F5d3xe

iBooks: https://apple.co/2QkRrhe

Follow Aria:

Website: http://www.ariafiction.com

Twitter: @aria_fiction

Facebook: @ariafiction

Instagram: @ariafiction

 

Blog Tour: Spotlight and Review- Mistletoe and Mystery (Paradise Cookery School #3) by Daisy James

Title: Mistletoe & Mystery 

Author Name: Daisy James

 

Previous Books (if applicable): Sunshine & Secrets and Confetti & Confusion

 

Genre: Women’s Fiction

 

Release Date: 8th November 2018

 

Cover Image:

Book Blurb: Welcome to the Cotswolds Festive Feast cookery course…
Fresh off the successful opening of the Paradise Cookery School in St Lucia, Millie Harper is headed to the Cotswolds for Christmas!

Co-presenting Claudia Croft’s famous Festive Feast cookery course at Stonelea Manor is a dream come true for Millie…as is reuniting with gorgeous estate manager Zach Barker.

But arriving in a winter wonderland Millie learns the manor is under a mysterious threat. It’ll take a holiday miracle, but Millie is determined to save the school and get Zach under the mistletoe to finally finish what they started in the Caribbean!

Cosy up with this fun, festive visit to the Cotswolds premier cookery school! Perfect for fans of Jenny Oliver and Sarah Morgan

If you loved Mistletoe & Mystery, why not read the first two stories in The Paradise Cookery School series? Sunshine & Secrets and Confetti & Confusions are both available now!

My Review: 

What an excellent return to the Paradise Cookery School series! I absolutely adored the other two books in the series, Sunshine and Secrets and Confetti and Confusion, both of which I was lucky enough to be on the blog tour for. 
In this third and final, instalment, Daisy James takes us off to the Cotswolds where Claudia has another cookery school and this time she needs Millie’s help in teaching her Festive Feast cookery course. 
In this book, Millie is desperate to see Zach again as he is back from Saint Lucia. They originally met there when Millie ended up at Claudia’s cookery school there. 
 In the first book, I found him not that likeable but here we see a much softer side to him which I did like.
I really felt for Millie as she had to come back from somewhere she loved but also curious to see what would happen as she was coming home.
Daisy James does not waste any time in describing the mouthwatering sweet treats that Milly and friends have to rustle up in the kitchen. 
Poppy is a great friend of Millie’s and they get on so well. I really like the way they are when they are together. I am happy for her that she has Poppy.
Zach and Millie have to catch up where they left off in the love department and things are very much alive still for them. I really enjoy them as a couple and the Christmassy atmosphere in this book is wonderful. I was dying to try the Christmasy cupcakes mentioned at the beginning!
This book will appeal to anyone with a sweet tooth and indeed anyone who is in need of a book about sweet romance well fighting for your dreams.
After I finished this, I was actually quite sad because I have really loved this series. 
To me, a good book is one that just blows and one that makes you feel like you are not having to concentrate too much for the story to take hold. Oh well, I’ll have to go through them again lol (something I think I will end up doing time and time again – they are that addictive)

I don’t mean to say that the stories are simple in this series. They are not, they are so intricately woven with plot details sights and sounds of the surrounding locations and specific to each place.
 The Paradise Cookery School series overall is a real cultural journey, with influences from England France and the Caribbean. I love how all the way through we get a sense of Millie’s French heritage and are also drawn into the world of her mother’s house there.
What starts off for Millie as a fairly simple premise of going to the airport to catch a plane to France in book 1 of the series turns into a whirlwind adventure by the that ultimately is just so passionate detailed and beautiful that you will not want this book, (or series) to end.
I do know that Daisy James has a whole wealth of books which I have on my list and am wanting to delve into right now. Daisy James is an author who has such a talent for a moving visual story that keeps you hooked from the first page to the last and that really stays with you.
Sometimes, I really feel like I have to force myself through a book to get to the end. Daisy James’ writing style just leaps of the page at you and it feels like you don’t have a book at all – in fact, it feels like you are living the plots. It feels like you are there in France or in the Caribbean or in England with all the characters experiencing what they experience feeling what they feel seeing what they see and doing what they’re doing.
 I can honestly say that the Paradise Cooking School series was one of my favourite series of 2018. 
Utterly absorbing! Five stars for every book in the series and also for the series as a whole.
Thanks to Daisy James and Canelo for my ARC in excgange for an honest and voluntary review as well as a spot on the blog tour for the title.

Links to Book:
Amazon (UK)

Kobo (UK)

Google Books (UK)

Apple Books (UK)

Author Bio:


Daisy James is a Yorkshire girl transplanted to the north east of England. She loves writing stories with strong heroines and swift-flowing plotlines. When not scribbling away in her summerhouse, she spends her time sifting flour and sprinkling sugar and edible glitter. She loves gossiping with friends over a glass of something pink and fizzy or indulging in a spot of afternoon tea – china plates and teacups are a must.
Twitter: @daisyjamesbooks

Paradise Cookery School #1 Sunshine and Secrets 

Paradise Cookery School Book 2: Confetti and Confusion

Blog Tour: A Village Affair by Julie Houston

About the Author: 




Julie Houston is the author of The One Saving Grace, Goodness, Grace and Me and Looking for Lucy, a Kindle top 100 general bestseller and a Kindle Number1 bestseller. She is married, with the two teenage children and a made cockerpoo and, like her heroine, livs in a West Yorkshire village. She is also a teacher and a magistrate.

Follow Julie
Twitter handle: @juliehouston2
Facebook: @JulieHoustonauthor
Website: http://www.juliehouston.co.uk

About the Book:

Cassie Beresford has recently landed her dream job as deputy head teacher at her local, idyllic village primary school, Little Acorns. So, the last thing she needs is her husband of twenty years being ‘outed’ at a village charity auction – he has been having an affair with one of her closest friends.
As if it weren’t enough to cope with, Cassie suddenly finds herself catapulted into the head teacher position, and at the front of a fight to ward off developers determined to concrete over the beautiful landscape.

But through it all, the irresistible joy of her pupils, the reality of keeping her teenage children on the straight and narrow, her irrepressible family and friends, and the possibility of new love, mean what could have been the worst year ever, actually might be the best yet…

Where  to Buy: 
Kobo: https://bit.ly/t2MF22BW
iBooks: https://apple.co/2PEjcCb
Amazon: https://amzn.to/2MFTI4T
Google Play: http://bit.ly/2yFfGjA

My Review:

I wasn’t sure what I would think of this and OH WOW was this book off to an explosive start! Cassie Beresford is a teacher at a primary school near her home. She has a very comfortable life and thinks she has it all, the mortgage, two kids and a handsome caring hard-working husband. That is until an auction night goes badly wrong when she finds out her husband of ten years has been having an affair for two.

To top it off, there is someone who is hungry for a piece of the village’s land to develop houses on.Cassie and her friends are strong, brave feisty and fun. Julie Houston’s writing style engages and does not dither or drag. I was laughing out loud at the funny parts and the characterisation is so realistic.

After having been asked by Aria to feature a cover reveal for this book on my blog (and while the cover is cute, do not be fooled into thinking this is a sleepy-village, slow-moving novel). It’s most definitely not. It is thoroughly enjoyable and I cannot wait to review more by Julie Houston.

Thanks to Julie Houston and Aria for my ARC in exchange for an honest and voluntary review and my spot on the blog tour for this title. 5 stars.

1998
‘Mum, please don’t tell me you’re going like that.’
‘Which bit don’t you like?’ Paula turned to the ancient, tarnished mirror that had hung in the exact same position over the mantelpiece for as long as I could remember, baring her teeth in a rictus smile.
‘All of it, for heaven’s sake. That hat looks like something from Oxfam.’ I frowned, taking in my mother’s bizarre wedding ensemble, and wishing once again the wish that I’d had ever since my first day at infants’ school when I began to realise, with a five-year-old’s desire to be the same as everyone else, that my mother was somehow different from other mothers. Paula’s dreadlocked hair, pierced nose, flowing orange dress, and open sandals revealing grubby hennaed feet stood out starkly among the business suits, gym apparel, trendy jeans and snow-white shirts sported by my new class mates’ parents and Miss Palmer herself.
‘The hospice shop, actually,’ my mother smiled beatifically. ‘A bargain at £2.50 and I have the satisfaction of knowing that my purchase not only helps the planet by recycling someone else’s unwanted goods, but also puts some money into something other than the capitalist shop owner’s pocket.’
Oh God, did she ever give up?
‘I just think you could have made a bit more of an effort for your only niece’s wedding day.’
‘Effort? Effort? Do you know how many charity shops I had to trail round in order to come up with matching items that wouldn’t upset your auntie Linda’s strict wedding colour scheme?’
‘And you think what you’re wearing won’t annoy her?’ I glanced once more at Mum’s strange aubergine knitted dress, at the purple tights and offending purple floppy hat. ‘At least let me put your hair up and try out a couple of my lipsticks on you; as a family member, she won’t be able to hide you at the back out of the way, will she?’
‘No time for that,’ Mum said cheerfully. ‘The taxi with your nan and granddad will be here in a minute. I think we both look pretty good, although…’ she took an appraising look at the little peach-coloured dress and matching collarless jacket I’d spent too many Saturdays looking for, after being inspired by Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City, and on which I’d spent far too much of my newly qualified teacher’s wage. ‘… I’ve a fabulous pair of dangly orange earrings that would liven up that outfit – give it a bit of colour…’
‘Are we ready for the off?’ My nan appeared at the open kitchen door, frowning up at the gathering dark clouds heading our way and tottering slightly on her new navy court shoes, bunions obviously giving her some gyp. ‘Come on, our Sandra, let’s be ’aving you. Your granddad’s hoping he can have a quick one before the kick-off …’
I grinned, loving Nan for her words. ‘Letsby Avenue’ and ‘Our Sandra’ – Nan had never been able to get used to my ‘right weird’ name of Cassandra Moonbeam – had been so often uttered over the years I reckoned they’d be engraved on her tombstone if she managed to avoid the willow casket and humanist service Mum had in mind for any of us popping our clogs before her.
Nan took my arm as we made our way down the garden steps to the beribboned wedding car waiting on the street. ‘What is your mother wearing this time?’ she tutted in a whisper. ‘Our Linda and our Davina won’t be happy. You’d have thought she’d have smartened herself up a bit, wouldn’t you? I mean, it’s not every day we have a right big do like this. Linda and Anthony have shelled out an absolute fortune for this wedding, you know. Mind you, Anthony can afford it…’
‘Come on, Dot, get a move on,’ Granddad Norman shouted through the open window of the wedding car. ‘Stop telling tales or we’ll be late.’
‘Or you won’t be able to sneak off to the Royal Oak, you mean. It’s not the done thing, anyhow, calling for a pint before your granddaughter gets wed. Just behave yourself and wait for t’champagne to be served.’
‘Hello, love. You look smashing.’ Granddad leant over the front seat to hug me and I hugged him right back, breathing in the Old Spice aftershave he’d never veered away from wearing and which he regularly sloshed on with a heavy hand. He and Nan were such a big part of my life; the idea that, one day, they wouldn’t be around was unthinkable.
‘You look pretty good yourself,’ I said. ‘You scrub up well.’
Nan snorted. ‘Had to send him back upstairs once he was dressed. He still had muck from the allotment under his nails. Shove up a bit, Paula,’ she went on, inching her not insubstantial behind along the back seat. ‘I can’t breathe in this new corset. The woman in M&S said it was right, that it’d settle down a bit, but…’ she took a deep breath, ‘… I think the next size up would have been better.’
‘So, love, how’s the job going? Still enjoying being in Derby? Got a boyfriend yet? Your cousin Davina’s beaten you to it again.’
‘She’s welcome to it,’ I said untruthfully at the same time as Mum tutted disparagingly. She didn’t believe in marriage, especially when thousands of pounds were being forked out in order for a woman to enslave herself to some man who’d want his socks washing and his meat and two veg on the table at six every evening. ‘And yes, I love Derby and I love the teaching. It’s just what I’ve always wanted. I’m saving up to buy a house there, Granddad.’
‘Property is theft,’ Mum murmured mildly, glancing out at the street through a window of gathering and breaking raindrops.
‘But “proper tea” isn’t.’ Granddad turned and winked at me, attempting to lighten any developing tension between Mum and myself, as had been his practice for as long as I could remember.
‘You never told me this, Cassandra.’ Mum now turned to face me, head on.
‘Well, I don’t tell you everything.’
‘I don’t think you tell me anything.’ Mum’s face, the bit that could be still seen under the floppy brim of the vintage purple hat, was momentarily sad and I felt a twinge of guilt. She was right: I rarely told her my plans.
 


Follow Aria
Website: http://www.ariafiction.com
Twitter: @aria_fiction
Facebook: @ariafiction
Instagram: @ariafiction

Blog Tour: The Sisters by Kate Forster

About the Author;

 

Kate Forster lives in Melbourne, Australia with her husband, two children and dogs and can be found nursing a laptop, surrounded by magazines and talking on the phone, usually all at once. She is an avid follower of fashion, fame and all things pop culture and is also an excellent dinner party guest who always brings gossip and champagne.

 Follow Kate:

Twitter handle: @kateforster

Facebook: @kateforsterwrites

 

About the Book:

 

Wealth and privilege can’t buy you love….or keep your secrets safe

 

The de Santoval sisters are heiresses to a glamorous fashion house, and the darlings of LA society.

 

Violetta is the hottest reality TV star of the moment, with a fierce press interest to rival Hollywood’s A-list. Carlotta is an exclusive horse trainer, as wild as the stallions she breaks in. Fine-arts consultant Grace is hiding a dark secret she must keep hidden at all costs. Their mother, wealthy fashion maven Birdie De Santoval, lies unconscious following a mysterious accident. Blame soon falls on their powerful but ruthless tycoon father, the missing Leon De Santoval.

 

Beneath the ritzy façade of the de Santoval family lies a web of deceit and betrayal that hides a secret that threatens to destroy them all…

 

Where to Buy:

Kobo: http://bit.ly/2NZurmU 

iBooks: https://apple.co/2EDsFIT

Amazon: mybook.to/SistersForster

Google Play: http://bit.ly/2JbOZrI

 

Follow Aria:

Website: http://www.ariafiction.com

Twitter: @aria_fiction

Facebook: @ariafiction

Instagram: @ariafiction

 

My Review: 

It was the title and plot (and look at that fabulous cover!) that got me requesting this ARC. Fashion, a mention of Spain and horses and I was into this book immediately. The de Santoval Triplets Violeta Carlota and Grace are thrown together again when their mother Birdie (good tie-in with the business’s name, pájaro, which means “bird” in Spanish) ends up in a coma after an accident.

What exactly happened to lead to this, and who is guilty, there’s where the mystery lies. The family is moneyed and in the fashion industry.

This is my first ever title by Kate Forster and I loved the detail with which she writes and the depth of the family relationships and that of the 3 sisters. The family are well known in LA and scandals, sex and family loyalties as well as disagreements abound.

Each character is flawlessly fleshed out and is very individual in their own right.

Carlota seems the most serious although she is driven to work at improving the business and she loves to shop. I too am a total shopaholic and identified with her. I also am a horse lover. Violeta seems the most “rebellious” of the sisters as she likes a sex/ social life. Grace seemed to stand out the least but she has a secret. It’s interesting to see how the sisters got on after leading their respective lives. And, where is their missing father Leon? Does he have anything to do with what happened to Birdie?

Such a suspenseful, engrossing family drama. This is BRILLIANT and I’ll definitely be searching for more books by Kate Forster. The pacing is excellent.

Thanks to Kate Forster and Aria for my ARC in exchange for an honest and voluntary review and for my blog tour slot. 

Leon – March 1980

Leon de Santoval sat in his economy seat on the plane, his long legs pressing against the seat in front of him. He ignored the woman next to him who seemed to be looking for conversation to distract herself from flying. She had crossed her body in a dramatic fashion as the plane took off and said a loud prayer, looking at him for reassurance. Leon had no time for conversation or religion and it certainly wasn’t his job to make the silly old woman feel better about being in a plane. God didn’t pay the bills, he thought, although many Padre’s would disagree, and the only conversation he wanted to have was with himself, about his future.

Looking ahead, he imagined when he would fly up the front in the first class cabin. However, the reality right now was that he had to pawn his grandfather’s gold cufflinks and pocket watch to scrape together enough money to fly to Paris for the couture shows. The cash flow in his father’s tailoring shop was lacking to say the least. It was fortunate that his family owned the building otherwise they would be out on the streets, he thought, as he watched the curtain open in first class and saw a hand holding out a champagne glass for a refill.

Leon held back an urge to push into the cabin and demand a seat. That was the problem with Leon, his grandmother always said – he would never wait for things to happen naturally. Things happen in their own time, she would tell him. But he believed no one. He knew where he wanted to go and that was to the top of the fashion world. He knew he could turn his father’s failing business around and create fascinating Spanish couture for the royals and high-class women of Spain, if only people would invest in him.

Leon leaned his head against the side of the plane and allowed himself to dream of dressing the finest women in Europe. By the time he woke the plane had landed in Paris. Reaching into the overhead cabin, he pulled down his suit bag carrying his one and only good suit – courtesy of his father’s shop – and his carry-on luggage. Ignoring the woman next to him who was smiling, hoping he would lift down her bag for her, he stood impatiently in the aisle waiting for the plane doors to open.

Leon had a plan; he would take inspiration and ideas from the Paris shows, return to Spain to take over his father’s shop, and turn it into a must-visit-and-buy atelier. He was sick of reading about the successes of Chanel and Chloe and Yves Saint Laurent. He wanted Spain to be on the fashion map and the House of de Santoval to be at the top.

Leon left the airport and took the bus to his low budget hotel in Montparnasse. He had to be careful with money; he could afford to eat only once a day and was hoping that he could charm his way into parties and soirees that were on for Fashion Week for contacts and finger food. Paris was still the home of fashion, no matter how hard London and New York screamed from the back of the ranks. Careers were made and reputations ruined by one bad showing.

Leon knew the 1980s were going to be unlike any other decade, there was money around and much of the snobbery had fallen away when new money began to make its mark on society. The fashion houses could not afford to be selective any more about who they dressed. The pop stars and movie stars were becoming the new royalty and Leon instinctively knew celebrity was where fashion was heading.

Arriving at the hotel, Leon went straight to his small room and undid his suit bag. He took out the fine grey wool suit with its purple silk lining and checked his bespoke John Lobb black leather dress shoes for shine. Leon was not afraid of colour; he was not afraid of anything for that matter. Unpacking his meagre collection of toiletries, he placed his Floid aftershave lotion on the bathroom counter and surveyed himself in the mirror. Tall and thin, with his slightly receding hair combed back, a hooked nose and black eyes. He was not handsome but it didn’t bother him. He would rather be smart and rich. People were always more attractive when they had money, he thought.

Leon was planning to visit as many fashion shows as possible, having managed to get tickets from some of the fabric companies his father still used. The tickets would mean that he would be standing at the back of the shows but he would be there, scanning the buyers from the big stores to see what items they noted on the runway.

First came YSL, then Lanvin, then Dior, then Chanel. And he would try to visit some of the new Japanese designers he was hearing about, although he was sceptical as to what the Japanese would show; no one would wear a kimono out of the house, he thought to himself.

Heading out into the streets of Paris, Leon was happy to be a part of the well-dressed crowds. Paris was like a second home to him, coming to the city as a boy with his father on buying trips for the shop. Leon would see the way some of the suppliers of the accessories and fabrics would dismiss his father and his modest shop, thinking it too small to offer the best and latest materials that they gave the couture houses.

Leon wanted respect, something his father had never sought, instead worrying about the fit of a suit or the collar of a dress shirt. Leon had no time for such details. He wanted to expand into women’s wear. Women were the ones with the money, they held the purse strings, no matter how much men protested. Leon had watched them in the shop, pushing their husbands and fathers around, cajoling or berating them into decisions. Yes, women were his focus.

Leon was not particularly fond of women in his personal life though. With a strong mother and grandmother, he had been pushed throughout his childhood until his own persona emerged, and he began to answer back to both of them. He never wanted to be like his father, cuckolded and scorned for trying and failing. Now at 32, Leon used women for sex, the way they used men for money – and he was happy to keep it that way, with no time for love in his head or his heart.

Leon hoped to get laid while he was in Paris; there were models galore and all he had to do was talk up his fashion house, promise an exclusive modelling contract and he would be in bed with some glamorous idiot from California or one of the new Czechoslovakian girls who were starting to model.

Walking towards a café, he spotted a redhead sitting outside, drinking a coffee and smoking a cigarette. No doubt a model, he thought, looking at her long legs and jutting collarbones. He sat down at the table beside her and waved at the waiter to bring him a coffee also. Reaching into his jacket pocket, he pulled out a pack of cigarettes and left the lighter there.

‘Est-ce que, je m’excuse peux emprunter votre allumeur?’ he asked casually.

‘I am sorry, I don’t speak French,’ came back an apologetic southern American accent.

‘Ah, you are American?’ said Leon in his charming Spanish lilt.

‘Yes, I’m from Georgia. Do you know it?’ the redhead said.

‘Only for its peaches.’

The girl laughed. She was quite stunning, Leon thought. Auburn hair, wide green eyes, a slight smattering of freckles on her nose, American teeth, white skin and long bones. Yes, definitely a model. Maybe no more than 20 years old.

‘I am Leon de Santoval,’ he said smoothly with not a hint of suggestiveness.

‘Hi, I am Birdie Blackwood,’ she replied, extending her hand to him.

He shook it and noticed her handshake was firm and strong. Good, he thought, imagining it on his cock later.

‘Birdie Blackwood? Is that your real name or are you playing with me?’ he asked, smiling.

‘It’s a family name.’ She shrugged, clearly used to explaining her unusual moniker.

Leon laughed. ‘Well, Birdie Blackwood, I think it’s lovely.’

‘I don’t. My full name is Cordella Birdie Blackwood. All the first-born women in my family are called that… since forever, I guess.’

She drew back on her cigarette and Leon noticed her long neck and defined jaw line. She really was quite stunning, he thought.

‘Are you here for the fashion shows?’ he asked.

‘Yes, I am.’

‘Which ones are you doing?’ he asked, hoping he might be able to get into a few more shows and perhaps a little closer to the runway, away from the pushing crowds.

‘All of them,’ she answered innocently.

‘All of them? How can that be? You will be very tired.’

‘I’m OK, I don’t have to do much really,’ she said, picking up her coffee and putting it on his table. ‘Can I join you?’

‘Of course.’ He gestured magnanimously. ‘Doesn’t it get chaotic out the back, with all the dressers and makeup?’ Leon was fascinated by this girl who treated the fashion shows with such little respect.

Birdie laughed. ‘Oh, I am not a model. Is that what you thought I was?’

Leon nodded. ‘Yes I did. How can a woman as beautiful as you not be on the runway?’

Birdie kept laughing in a musical tone. ‘I am a reporter, for Women’s Wear Daily. I cover the shows. I don’t walk in them.’

Leon nodded, more interested. Birdie Blackwood could prove to be helpful for him later on, he decided, making a mental note to not piss her off by fucking and then forgetting her.

‘Are you in fashion?’ she asked Leon.

‘Yes, I have an atelier in Barcelona. We create menswear but I would like to move into high-end womenswear. Beautiful things for beautiful women,’ Leon told her, without any trace of sarcasm.

Birdie looked unimpressed. She shrugged her shoulders and looked away. ‘Well, good luck with that.’

Leon frowned. Why was she being so dismissive of his dream? Women never gave men any credit for their dreams. It was always about them, he thought, remembering his mother screaming at his father over the dinner table.

‘Does it not seem a good idea to you?’ he asked, more than a little tersely.

Birdie looked back at him, her eyebrows raised. ‘Honestly? You want my opinion? You don’t know me at all.’

Leon suddenly realised he did want her opinion although he was not sure why. Always self-assured and confident about his dreams for his father’s shop, he was so sure this was what he was meant to do, until this girl blew off his aspirations.

‘Yes, I want to know,’ he answered honestly, putting his ego on check for a moment.

‘Well, OK then. Here’s what I think. I think we need less high fashion and more affordable fashion. Women are working now, they have their own money, they want fashion and they want it faster. Everyone wants to look great and look like they have money but not everyone does. These labels, these shows are for such a small part of the population and the outfits get worn once, maybe twice at best. Unless you are a couture collector or royalty or from oil money then these clothes are not for you. Not even the movie stars and pop stars can afford them. My best friend back in Georgia makes all her own clothes, she gets the magazines and then copies the styles. She now gets orders from our other friends. These are girls whose mothers grew up getting couture made twice a year in Paris. None of their daughters or granddaughters can be bothered now. All that standing and pinning, no thanks,’ Birdie said passionately.