Posts Tagged With: Romance

Whither Thou Goest by Anna Belfrage (Graham Saga #7)

Whither Thou GoestTitle: Whither Thou Goest (The Graham Saga #7)
Author: Anna Belfrage
ISBN: 978-1781322413
Publisher: SilverWood
First Published: 1 November 2014 (Paperback/Kindle)
No .of pages: 408

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis (from Amazon):
In their rural home in the Colony of Maryland, Matthew and Alex Graham are still recovering from the awful events of the previous years when Luke Graham, Matthew’s estranged brother, asks them for a favour.

Alex has no problems whatsoever ignoring Luke’s sad plea for help. In her opinion Matthew’s brother is an evil excuse of a man who deserves whatever nasty stuff fate throws at him. Except, as Matthew points out, Luke is begging them to save his son – his misled Charlie, one of the Monmouth rebels – and can Charlie Graham be held responsible for his father’s ill deeds?

So off they go on yet another adventure, this time to the West Indies to find a young man neither of them knows but who faces imminent death on a sugar plantation, condemned to slavery for treason. The journey is hazardous and along the way Alex comes face to face with a most disturbing ghost from her previous life, a man she would much have preferred never to have met.

Time is running out for Charlie Graham, Matthew is haunted by reawakened memories of his days as an indentured servant, and then there’s the eerie Mr Brown, Charlie’s new owner, who will do anything to keep his secrets safe, anything at all.

Will Matthew deliver his nephew from imminent death? And will they ever make it back home?

Review:
The Graham Saga is a series that just keeps giving! You want cracking characters? They’re in there. You crave action and intrigue? Look no further! You fancy some peril and deliverance? It’s right here, people! You like historical settings, but enjoy modern people out of their time? This is the series for you! And with Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander books now hitting our television screens, we can expect The Graham Saga to pick up interest from fans of Gabaldon as they look for more wonderful works to entertain them with the kind of rich plots and sweeping landscapes they already love, because if you like Gabaldon, you’ll LOVE Belfrage!

Once again, we see Alex (a modern woman out of her time) and her family almost torn apart and having to pull together to make it out the other side of the trials and tribulations thrown their way. Much of it is edge of the seat stuff and one genuinely found it incredibly difficult to put down the book and return to one’s own day-to-day life (as one must occasionally, to do everyday things such as feeding the kids, getting them to school, and making sure we have a nice, clean home in which to live – seriously, if I could have an extra few hours in every day just to read these books, I’d be a very happy woman!).

Fans of the series will find this latest (7th!) installment delivers everything one would expect and then some – an exciting, often intense, adventurous, romantic saga of a story that will keep readers gripped till the last page is turned, and then leave us gasping and gagging for more. It seems Belfrage cannot put a foot wrong – long may she continue to give us more installments in this truly wonderful series!

Reviewed by Kell Smurthwaite

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Serpents in the Garden by Anna Belfrage (The Graham Saga #5)

Serpents-in-the-GardenTitle: Serpents in the Garden (The Graham Saga #5)
Author: Anna Belfrage
ISBN: 978-1781321737
Publisher: SilverWood
First Published: 27 February 2014 (Kindle) / 1 March 2014 (Paperback)
No .of pages: 396

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis (from Amazon):
‘Serpents in the Garden’ is the fifth book in Anna Belfrage’s time slip series featuring time traveller Alexandra Lind and her seventeenth century husband, Matthew Graham. After years of hard work, Matthew and Alex Graham have created a thriving home in the Colony of Maryland. About time, in Alex’s opinion, after far too many adventures she is really looking forward to some well-deserved peace and quiet. A futile hope, as it turns out. Things start to heat up when Jacob, the third Graham son, absconds from his apprenticeship to see the world – especially as Jacob leaves behind a girl whom he has wed in a most irregular fashion. Then there’s the infected matter of the fellow time traveller Alex feels obliged to help – no matter the risk. Worst of all, one day Philip Burley and his brothers resurface after years of absence. As determined as ever to make Matthew pay for every perceived wrong – starting with the death of their youngest brother – the Burleys play out a complicated cat and mouse game, and Alex is thrown back into an existence where her heart is constantly in her mouth, convinced as she is that one day the Burleys will achieve their purpose. Will the Burleys succeed? And if they do, will the Graham family survive the exacted price?

Review:
I only came to this series of books at the fourth novel (see my review HERE) but found it surprisingly easy to pick them up from this point and not be lost to what went before (indeed, it has made me resolve to go back and read the others on account of the story and writing being so good!).

This is the fifth book in The Graham Saga and it is every bit as good as the previous installment – I suspect the whole series is of the same level, as Belfrage’s writing has thus far been of a consistently high calibre that should be the envy of many other authors: She achieves, seemingly with ease, what all writers strive to reach, but is often out of their grasp.

Our favourite characters return; Alex and Matthew Graham continue to carve a life for themselves and their ever increasing family in The New World, but their past is catching up with them and old feuds are resurrected by the return of the Burleys (ooh, how much would I like to get my hands on those guys and wring their necks myself?!); their third son runs off to sea, but not before creating complications with the girl he loves; and other family trials are threatening to tear the family apart. Is there anything life won’t throw at these good people? It makes for gripping reading and I found myself often on the edge of my seat, never wanting to put down the book, even when other things in life demanded my immediate attention – that’s exactly what a good book should do to readers!

I find myself wondering if Belfrage can put a foot wrong with this series? It would seem not, and I, for one, am incredibly glad we have another three books of the saga still to be published – I can hardly wait to get my hands on them! Till then, I shall content myself by going back to the beginning and reading the series from the very start…

Reviewed by Kell Smurthwaite

See my interview with Anna Belfrage HERE.

See Anna Belfrage’s guest post HERE.

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The Last Letter From Your Lover by Jojo Moyes

Title:  The Last Letter From Your LoverImage
Author:  Jojo Moyes
ISBN: 978-0340961643
Publisher:  Hodder

First Published:  February 2011 (Paperback)
No .of pages:  512

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis (from Amazon):
When journalist Ellie looks through her newspaper’s archives for a story, she doesn’t think she’ll find anything of interest. Instead she discovers a letter from 1960, written by a man asking his lover to leave her husband – and Ellie is caught up in the intrigue of a past love affair. Despite, or perhaps because of her own romantic entanglements with a married man.
In 1960, Jennifer wakes up in hospital after a car accident. She can’t remember anything – her husband, her friends, who she used to be. And then, when she returns home, she uncovers a hidden letter, and begins to remember the lover she was willing to risk everything for.
Ellie and Jennifer’s stories of passion, adultery and loss are wound together in this richly emotive novel – interspersed with real ‘last letters’.

Review:
Last year I read what I thought was the debut novel of Jojo Moyes, Me Before You, and I was surprised to find out that not only was this not her first book, but she had written several other books too!  Don’t ask me how I had managed to come this far without noticing her books, however, I am very pleased that she is now on my radar and she is currently 2 out of 2 in the enjoyment stakes.

The Last Letter From Your Lover is set between current time and 1960 and is focussed on a love letter found in the archives of a local newspaper.  We travel back in time and see how and why the letter came about.  Then we jump forward to current day and see what effects this old correspondence is having on Ellie, who stumbled upon it. 

Whilst this is a love story, it’s not your typical love story.  Each chapter has its own real life ‘last letter’, many of which are strange and wonderful, break up and make up letters.  It’s not all sunshine and roses but it’s certainly a love story which kept me gripped right up to the last page.

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Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth

bitter-greensTitle: Bitter Greens
Author: Kate Forsyth
ISBN: 978-0749013622
Publisher: Allison & Busby
First Published: 25 February 2013 (hardback/Kindle) / 29 July 2013 (paperback)
No .of pages: 496

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis (from Fantastic Fiction):
Charlotte-Rose de la Force, exiled from the court of King Louis XIV, has always been a great talker and teller of tales.

Selena Leonelli, once the exquisite muse of the great Venetian artist Tiziano, is terrified of time.

Margherita, trapped in a doorless tower and burdened by tangles of her red-gold hair, must find a way to escape.

You may think you know the story of Rapunzel . . .

Review:
Everyone loves a good fairytale, and one of the most beautiful, mysterious and compelling of all is that of Rapunzel. It has had many different names and versions, but the one that is perhaps best known was penned not by a man (or by the bothers Grimm, as most people assume – they only adapted it) , as most novels and writings of that time, but by a woman. And not just any woman, but one of the most notorious and scandalous women of her age, Charlotte-Rose de Caumont de la Force, who was exiled from the court of King Louis XIV, the Sun King, after a life that would make even the most hedonistic of courtiers blush!

Kate Forsyth has expertly woven together three stories that at once mirror each other whilst at the same time are completely different, deftly combining different time lines and locations to create an exquisitely intricate tale that will shock, amaze and bewitch. Readers will be drawn into the whirlwind of the 17th century French court, and the artistic beauty of Italy as the elements draw together the lives of Madamoiselle de la Force (the storyteller), Selena Leonelli (the sorceress), and Margherita (who has had so many incarnations as the beautiful heroine with the tangled hair).

The lines between fact and fiction are expertly blurred and blended till we find ourselves wrapped up in the fairytale ourselves, no longer able to untangle the strands of three very different lives that have culminated in one of the best-loved fairytales of all time.

Reviewed by Kell Smurthwaite

You can see my exclusive interview with
Kate Foryth
HERE

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A Cottage by the Sea by Carole Matthews

a cottage by the sea by carole matthewsTitle: A Cottage by the Sea
Author: Carole Matthews
ISBN: 978-1847444615
Publisher: Sphere
First Published: 3 January 2013 (hardback / Kindle) / 28 March 2013 (paperback) / J1 March 2013 (audio)
No .of pages: 448

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis (from Amazon):Grace has been best friends with Ella and Flick forever. The late-night chats, shared heartaches and good times have created a bond that has stood the test of time.

When Ella invites them to stay for a week in her cottage in South Wales, Grace jumps at the chance to see her old friends. She also hopes that the change of scenery will help her reconnect with her distant husband.

Then Flick arrives; loveable, bubbly, incorrigible Flick, accompanied by the handsome and charming Noah.

This is going to be one week which will change all their lives forever…

Join Grace, Ella and Flick for a week of love, laughter, tears and friendship in A Cottage by the Sea

Review:
I do not usually read chick-lit or romance, but a few years back I came across The Chocolate Lovers’ Club and its sequel, The Chocolate Lovers’ Diet, and thoroughly enjoyed them. So when Carole Matthews’ publishing team asked for volunteers to read and review her latest novel, A Cottage by the Sea, I jumped at the chance.

If I ever read another chick-lit novel, it will be one by Carole Matthews!

I love her fresh, easy style of writing – it seems to flow so effortlessly from one page to the next, so that it barely feels like one is reading at all, more one is absorbing the story by osmosis or some similar biological process. The story seeps into the reader with ease and in a manner that feels wholly organic and natural.

As with most chick-lit, it’s entirely predictable – there wasn’t a single move I didn’t see coming a mile off, but I found I didn’t care – I wanted things to happen the way they did – it felt right and I enjoyed the ride so much that I didn’t really want it to end. It really made me hanker after a holiday in a little cottage in Pembrokeshire, despite the fact that I know my own hubby would hate being away from technology as much as some of the characters here did – I know I’m more of a Grace or Ella when it comes to being somewhere peaceful and undisturbed. And I really did like the characters – I felt like I’d known Grace, Ella and Flick for years, and like an old friend, sometimes I wanted to slap Flick and tell her to grow up. Similarly I wanted to shake Harry and Art, and I completely fell for the lovely Noah – but then, who wouldn’t?

Reading a light novel like this feels like a holiday for my brain and it was exactly what I needed while I recovered from flu. Highly enjoyable, fun, just a joy to read – Carole Matthews gets my vote any day of the week for holiday reading!

Reviewed by Kell Smurthwaite

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Replica by Lexi Revellian

Title: Replica
Author: Lexi Revellian
ISBN: 978-0956642240
Publisher: Hoxton Press
First Published: June 2011
No .of pages: 290

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis (from Fantastic Fiction):
Beth Chandler, bright, attractive but unassertive, is accidentally replicated in a flawed experiment at the government research institute where she works. A second Beth comes into being, complete with all her memories. To Sir Peter Ellis, MI5 chief, the replica is an embarrassment that must be hushed up and disposed of. Overhearing him, Beth Two goes on the run. With no official existence, homeless, penniless and pursued by Sir Peter’s agents, she has to find the inner strength and aggression to survive on icy London streets. Meanwhile the original Beth, unaware of what has happened, becomes romantically involved with Nick Cavanagh, the spec op she believes is there to protect her. In fact, he’s hunting her double. Nick refuses to face his moral doubts about Beth Two – as far as he’s concerned, it’s not his problem. As events unfold, and the situation grows more complicated, he has to decide whose side he is on.

Review:
Two years ago, I read and reviewed an earlier novel by Lexi Revellian called Remix. I loved it, so when I was offered the chance to review a second novel, Replica, I jumped at it.

I wasn’t disappointed!

Plunging straight into the action seems to be something of a Revellian trait, as Replica doesn’t hang around. By page 8, major events have already occurred and we’re having to deal with the aftermath of some pretty earth-shattering revelations very soon afterwards. Suspension of disbelief can be a major hang-up of mine if the subject matter isn’t handled well, but Lexi is a real pro – with everyone aware of science’s progress with cloning the notion of replication is an unnervingly real prospect, and the lack of overly scientific jargon to explain everything away (which might have hampered proceedings, making them seem contrived and unrealistic while bogging the reader down in “facts” they do not need) adds to that sense of realism – we just accept it as a matter of fact and run with it.

The writing is ludicrously easy to read – honestly, I have very rarely come across a writer whose words seem so effortless to read and it’s a real joy to get into the story and characters so quickly it feels like one has known them for years. Even with two Beths who start out essentially the same person, but through their very different experiences after the replication, rapidly become completely separate and instantly recognisable, it never becomes even remotely confusing – one is always acutely aware of who is who.

In the hands of a lesser writer, this could have been a real mess, but Revellian takes a nifty idea and writes it so neatly that when we reach the shocking conclusion, there are aspects which one honestly didn’t see coming, but afterwards one realises it couldn’t have happened any other way.

On the back of enjoying this novel (and the previous one) so much, I can hardly wait to read Ice Diaries!

Reviewed by Kell Smurthwaite

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Huntress by Malinda Lo

Title: Huntress
Author: Malinda Lo
ISBN: 978-1907411090
Publisher: Atom
First Published: April 2011
No .of pages: 384

Rating: 3/5

Synopsis (from Fantastic Fiction):
Nature is out of balance in the human world. The sun hasn’t shone in years, and crops are failing. Worse yet, strange and hostile creatures have begun to appear. The people’s survival hangs in the balance.

To solve the crisis, the oracle stones are cast, and Kaede and Taisin, two seventeen-year-old girls, are picked to go on a dangerous and unheard-of journey to Tanlili, the city of the Fairy Queen. Taisin is a sage, thrumming with magic, and Kaede is of the earth, without a speck of the otherworldly. And yet the two girls’ destinies are drawn together during the mission. As members of their party succumb to unearthly attacks and fairy tricks, the two come to rely on each other and even begin to fall in love. But the Kingdom needs only one huntress to save it, and what it takes could tear Kaede and Taisin apart forever.

Review:
Last year I read Ash and was pretty much blown away by the daring retelling of Cinderella. When I came to the end, I could hardly wait to get my hands on the prequel, but it took till now to get round to reading it. The action takes place in the same world as Ash but is set centuries earlier.

To be honest, although I enjoyed Huntress, I was still a little disappointed, because it fell short of living up to the previous novel. I’m not sure if it’s because Ash had a familiar story and this didn’t, but I just didn’t feel I engaged with the characters or plot quite as well this time round. It felt a bit drawn out and meandering, and didn’t seem to have any real purpose unless to set the scene for another novel. Nothing felt resolved.

That’s not to say Huntress is not an entertaining read – on the contrary, the concept is interesting and the characters neatly packaged – it’s just not as good as the novel that came before. to be fair, though, those were big shoes to fill.

Reviewed by Kell Smurthwaite

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Royal Street (Sentinels #1) by Suzanne Johnson

Title: Royal Street (Sentinels #1)
Author: Suzanne Johnson
ISBN: 978-0755397655
Publisher: Headline
First Published: 27 September 2012
No .of pages: 432

Rating: 3/5

Synopsis (from Fantastic Fiction):
As the junior wizard sentinel for New Orleans, Drusilla Jaco’s job involves a lot more potion-mixing than sniffing out supernatural bad guys. DJ’s mentor, Gerald St. Simon, is the wizard tasked with protecting the city from anyone or anything that slips over from the preternatural beyond. Then Hurricane Katrina hammers New Orleans’ fragile levees, unleashing more than just dangerous flood waters. Now the undead and the restless are roaming the Big Easy, and a serial killer with ties to voodoo is murdering soldiers sent to help the city recover. To make it worse, Gerry has gone missing, the wizards’ Elders have assigned a grenade-toting assassin as DJ’s new partner, and an undead pirate wants to make her walk his plank. DJ will learn the hard way that loyalty requires sacrifice… and duty mixed with love creates one bitter gumbo.

Review:
I tend to enjoy fiction with a paranormal / supernatural slant, but in recent years there seems to have been something of a glut of them, all of a very similar ilk.

This one’s different.

Royal Street, the first in the new Sentinels series, is set in New Orleans and focuses on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The big “What if?” here is “What if a natural disaster happens in a place where the veil between the worlds is already very thin and rips open the borders, leaving our world open to those from the Other Side?” In such a disaster, there is a tragic loss of life, but when you add a supernatural element to some of the deaths, you need someone who is trained in dealing with those from The Beyond and make sure the death toll doesn’t continue to rise.

Dru Jaco is a feisty character and her will they / wont they working relationship with her Enforcer partner and his cousin is a lot of fun. There’s also an unusual mix of the usual preternatural creatures (vampires, werewolves, wizards, fairies, etc) with the wonderful addition of the “Historic Dead” which can include anyone of note who has passed on. Let me lay it out for you. We get pirates! How cool is that? Never did I think I’d ever see the day when pirates, wizards and voodoo Gods would all be included in the same plot line.

It’s an exciting start to what promises to be a series that can proudly stand up beside the likes of Charlaine Harris’ Southern Vampires series and still stand out form the crowd.

Reviewed by Kell Smurthwaite

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Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

Title: Rules of Civility
Author: Amor Towles
ISBN: 978-1444708875
Publisher: Sceptre
First Published: January 2012
No. of pages: 352

Rating: 3/5

Synopsis (from Fantastic Fiction):
Set during the hazy, enchanting, and martini-filled world of New York City circa 1938, Rules of Civility follows three friends–Katey, Eve, and Tinker–from their chance meeting at a jazz club on New Year’s Eve through a year of enlightening and occasionally tragic adventures. Tinker orbits in the world of the wealthy; Katey and Eve stretch their few dollars out each evening on the town. While all three are complex characters, Katey is the story’s shining star. She is a fully realized heroine, unique in her strong sense of self amidst her life’s continual fluctuations. Towles’ writing also paints an inviting picture of New York City, without forgetting its sharp edges. Reminiscent of Fitzgerald, Rules of Civility is full of delicious sentences you can sit back and savor (most appropriately with a martini or two).

Review:
This is what chick-lit would be like if it were written exclusively by men. No, I don’t mean lad-lit; that’s a completely different animal – this is more like chick-lit with all the fluff removed. There is absolutely nothing frothy about Rules of Civility but there is still the lightness and ease of reading without any of the brashness you might expect from a man writing from a female point of view.

In fact, there is a sense of honesty about the character of Katie Kontent (Kontent like the state of being, not Kontent like something in a box) that is quite refreshing and delightful. The story from Katie’s point of view has a gentle flow that carries the reader forward at a steady pace, which is why it’s such a jolt when you come to a section told from Tinker’s point of view – you suddenly feel like you’ve run aground on a sand bank for a while till Katie takes the rudder and you’re able to push off again.

There are no wildly exciting escapades here, just a subtle meandering as the characters meet and mingle, crossing the boundaries of their respective social circles and having their lives affected by those interactions. There is no sense of urgency, and no hurry to get from one moment to the next – you just drift.

And that, I think is the main problem. The characters feel like they are in want of just a little more plot. There is growth – the characters develop and learn about themselves and each other, but there is little real action. That said, there is something quite pleasant about just sitting back and enjoying the ride as you glide from the first page to the last.

Reviewed by Kell Smurthwaite

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American Smile by Cody Young

Title: American Smile
Author: Cody Young
ISBN: 978-0-47315832-3
Publisher: Golden Bay Press
First Published: May 2011
No. of pages: 216

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis (back cover):
American Smile weaves together a D-Day love story and a contemporary tale.

When Emma Rowland discovers that her family tree is a work of fiction, she is determined to uncover the truth, though it has been hidden for 65 years and few people are willing to talk.

The irresistible Tyler Robinson, an American aircraft mechanic, promises to help solve the wartime puzzle. It son becomes clear that Tyler knows more about the mystery than he’s willing to say, and that he has secrets of his own.

Together they follow the trail blazed by a reckless GI and his blonde bombshell. A DNA test holds some surprises and the search takes Tyler and Emma to Paris, where their questions are finally answered, but what does the future hold for them both?

Review:
Let me start by saying that I don’t usually read anything with even the remotest of romantic plots, as I generally don’t enjoy them, so my review of this novel, which is essentially a love story, may be coloured to reflect that, and so perhaps other readers may well give it a higher rating. However, as I give American Smile a very strong 4/5, that should tell you just how enjoyable it is, if someone who hates romances thinks it’s a great read!

The key is in the clever handling of two parallel stories in different eras – one in the months leading up to the D-Day landings in Normandy, and one contemporary. Both are linked in more ways than one, and each strand of the two stories weaves together to create a beautifully tangled web of mystery and searching.

The characters are absolutely wonderful and I especially loved Tyler, the American aircraft mechanic – to be truthful, I found myself falling rather in love with him myself. It’s rare that a romantic hero is so sweet, gentlemanly and, well, inexperienced, but it works to the advantage of the story and sets a contrast to the WWII relationship that is both fun and endearing.

Whether you’re a fan of romances or avoid them like the plague, I can heartily recommend this heartwarming tale – I swear I could hardly bear to put it down for even a moment. Cody Young is an author to look out for in the future and it’s worth mentioning she also has a novella available for Kindle (Scandal at the Farmhouse) which I really wish was available in hardcopy, as I’d love to try it!

American Smile is available both in paperback and on Kindle.

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