Review

At The End of the Day. Liz Byrski

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Published: MacMillan Australia
Date: 28th September 2021
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

When Mim Squires and Mathias Vander are stranded together on a disrupted flight home to Perth, they are surprised to find that they have much in common. Mim owns a bookshop, Mathias is a writer, and both are at turning points in their lives. Mim’s childhood polio is taking a toll on her life. Mathias is contemplating a cross-continent move to be nearer his daughter.

But life back in Perth is not smooth sailing, with their respective family members going through their own upheavals. As Mim and Mathias both struggle to adjust to the challenges of being in their late seventies, secrets from the past that neither wishes to face rise to the surface, challenging their long-held beliefs in their independence and singularity.

In At The End of the Day we meet two main characters, Mim and Mathias. They are both in their seventies and have led full lives, yet for both of them there are unresolved issues that shadow their present day happiness. The story explores who they are now, who they have been and who they might (or might not) become now.

I liked both these characters. Mim as a child had polio and now has a post polio syndrome that leaves her often tired and in pain. Mathias is a bit of a recluse but he likes to be around his daughter and is experiencing present day loss around his oldest friend. They are both facing into the later stage of life and exploring how they might live it fully and happily.

We also meet Alice – Mim’s sister and the exploration of sisterhood and the realisation that up until now they have not really understood each other and their misconceptions. Mim has a wonderful friend considerably younger than her and Matthias has a daughter. Together they find their way through new relationships to something completely new.

I really liked the final resolution of the book, there is a note of hope and future possibilities. People who could have become set in what has been, change and adjust to challenges, and reach for what makes them happy.  There is a recognition of our need for each other and that while independence is important, so is allowing others to reach out to us.

Thank you to Liz Byrski for facing into her own challenges to complete another thought provoking and engaging read.

Review

All About Ella. Meredith Appleyard

All About Ella

Published: Harlequin – Australia
Date: 1st September 2021
Source: Publisher via Netgalley

At 70, Ella’s world is upended, leaving her at odds with her three adult children, whose attention is fixed more firmly on her money than her ongoing welfare. After an argument with her son Anthony, she flees his Adelaide home for Cutlers Bay, a seaside town on the Yorke Peninsula. There she befriends Angie, a 40-year-old drifter, and becomes an irritant to local cop Zach. He’s keen to shift Ella off his turf, because Anthony phones daily, demanding his mother be sent home. And besides, Zach just doesn’t trust Angie.

Ella warms to Cutlers Bay, and it warms to her. In a defiant act of self-determination, she buys an entirely unsuitable house on the outskirts of town, and Angie agrees to help make it habitable. Zach is drawn to the house on the clifftop, and finds himself revising his earlier opinions of Ella, and Angie.

All About Ella was a lovely surprise of a read. Right from the start I was on team Ella. She’d gone through a really hard time, nursing her dying husband, having the family house sold from under her and then hustled to live with her son and daughter in law.

Ella is very realistic and in lots of ways, ordinary. But she is so likeable and I was wishing for her the very best. It was a delight to see her finding her feet and then standing firmly on them.

I loved the sound of the old house she lives in and the Australian small town feel. The house had not been lived in and felt really unsuitable but it made Ella’s heart sing and through many ups and downs she achieved so much.

Angie adds to the story with her wandering, unsettled heart. She has had a difficult family upbringing which is at the root of her wandering. The relationship that builds between Ella and Angie warmed my heart. As well Ella has a great relationship with her grandson Stefan, another element I enjoyed.

The local community is rich in ordinary warm hearted people going about their lives, doing their best and looking out for each other.

The book makes us examine what we value when it comes to allowing older people to make their own choices and live their lives as they see fit, and that families don’t need to step in unless its in the really best interests of the elder. Purpose and meaning in life is important at any age.

A delightful winner of a book and my word the cover is perfect.

Review

Be My Ghost. C J Perry

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Published: Kensington Books
Date: 31st August 2021
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

Maureen’s career as a sportswear buyer hits a snag just before Halloween, when the department store declares bankruptcy. Meanwhile, Finn’s lost his way as a guide dog after flunking his test for being too friendly and easily distracted. Sadly, only one of them can earn unemployment, so Maureen’s facing a winter of discontent in Boston–when she realizes she can’t afford her apartment.

Salvation comes when she receives a mysterious inheritance: an inn in Haven, Florida. A quaint, scenic town on the Gulf of Mexico hidden away from the theme parks, Maureen believes it’s a good place to make a fresh start with a new business venture. But she gets more than she bargained for when she finds a dead body on her property–and meets some of the inn’s everlasting tenants in the form of ghosts who offer their otherworldly talents in order to help her solve the mystery…

What a great start Be My Ghost is to a new series by Carol J. Perry. It was highly entertaining and I know I am going to want way more about Maureen and her team at the new Haven Inn in Florida that she has somehow inherited.

The inn is haunted. Oh yes some ghosts, I know at least one of them is sure to be a recurring character. Then we have Maureen who is newly arrived at the inn and on the whole she feels she has landed on her feet, after a job loss.

However the inn is somewhat run down and is running at a loss. But… Maureen has vast retail experience and my guess is before too long she’ll be managing this inn way better than it has been. Elizabeth the manager, I felt was most likely skimming from the inn.

Of course there is a murder and while I didn’t solve the whole mystery it was fairly easy to pinpoint before the big reveal.

This is a book that just kept me reading, a page turner for sure. Can’t wait to meet Maureen and Finn (dog) again. It will be an auto-read.

Review

Murder Most Fair

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Publisher: Kensington
Date: 31st August 2021
Source:Publisher via NetGalley

November 1919. A relaxing few weeks by the seaside with her husband, Sidney, could almost convince Verity Kent that life has returned to the pleasant rhythm of pre-war days. Then Verity’s beloved Great-Aunt Ilse lands on their doorstep. After years in war-ravaged Germany, Ilse has returned to England to repair her fragile health–and to escape trouble. Someone has been sending her anonymous threats, and Verity’s Secret Service contacts can only provide unsettling answers.

Even deep in the Yorkshire Dales, where she joins Verity’s family for the holidays, Ilse encounters difficulties. Normally peaceful neighbors are hostile, seeking someone to blame for the losses they’ve endured. When Ilse’s maid is found dead, Verity must uncover whether this is anti-German sentiment taken to murderous lengths, or whether there is a more personal motive at work. Could Verity’s shadowy nemesis, Lord Ardmore, be involved? And if so, how much closer to home will the blow land when he inevitably strikes again?

Murder Most Fair was another very good addition to the Verity Kent mysteries by Anna Lee Huber. I really enjoyed this one for a number of reasons.

Verity and Sidney finally return to Verity’s family home up in Yorkshire. We have been waiting like her family for this return. However Verity has been dealing with war things, plus she has found it hard to face into the fact her brother Rob will no longer be there. He was shot down during the war in his fighter plane.  

During the whole book we see Verity struggling with re inserting herself into the family, and we get a view of the various family members. Her mother, a rather difficult and fraught relationship, her Dad seems steady, her two brothers with post war related stresses and her sister Grace. Grace is young and has missed her sister. But…

I loved where she lived. Very English – not of Downton Abbey standing but in a much smaller way, still very class oriented. They had a butler and maids, Verity’s mother was sort of the “the” lady of the village.

The fact they have Aunt Ilse with them and her German maid provides some tension as the villagers are not happy to have Germans among them. And so the mystery evolves and comes to its frightful conclusion. I did sort of suspect but didn’t get it totally right. 

All the time the over arcing story of what Lord Ardmore is doing and when he might strike next is always threading its way through the story, which muddies the waters of the present mystery as well.

Truthfully Verity and Sidney and now her family have wormed their way into my heart. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Review

Lucy Parker : Battle Royal

Battle Royal

Published: Avon and Harper Voyager
Date: 17th August 2021
Source: Publicist via NetGalley

Ready…Four years ago, Sylvie Fairchild charmed the world as a contestant on the hit baking show, Operation Cake. Her ingenious, creations captivated viewers and intrigued all but one of the judges, Dominic De Vere. When Sylvie’s unicorn cake went spectacularly sideways, Dominic was quick to vote her off the show. Since then, Sylvie has used her fame to fulfill her dream of opening a bakery. The toast of Instagram, Sugar Fair has captured the attention of the Operation Cake producers…and a princess.

Set…Dominic is His Majesty the King’s favorite baker and a veritable British institution. He’s brilliant, talented, hard-working. And an icy, starchy grouch. Learning that Sylvie will be joining him on the Operation Cake judging panel is enough to make the famously dour baker even more grim. Her fantastical baking is only slightly more troublesome than the fact that he can’t stop thinking about her pink-streaked hair and irrepressible dimple.

Match…When Dominic and Sylvie learn they will be fighting for the once in a lifetime opportunity to bake a cake for the upcoming wedding of Princess Rose, the flour begins to fly as they fight to come out on top.

The bride adores Sylvie’s quirky style. The palace wants Dominic’s classic perfection.

In this royal battle, can there be room for two?

I have long wanted to read a Lucy Parker romance novel to see if I would like it. Battle Royal was my opportunity. It is definitely an enemies to lovers kind of story and anyone who has watched TV series that involve competition and baking will most likely be interested.

Dominic and Sylvie are interesting characters with childhood backgrounds that have had a big influence on their lives. I loved the little scenario of Dominic and his sister when he was thirteen. Of course they are grown now and I have to say Pet really intrigued me. I think her story will be fascinating and with royal links, will make it very readable.

Battle Royal is well written and involves many facets that I am sure romance readers will love. If you are interested in royalty ( I am) that’s another drawcard. However a British Prince Patrick?? Really the most unlikely name ever! It’s too Irish and Catholic!

Was the book for me? No, not really. First of all the tone is one of romantic comedy with smart writing but it sort of held me, the reader, at arm’s length from the characters. And they do have moving stories. I just didn’t get emotionally involved until way into the book. The plot seemed to weave about a bit and I was a little bored here and there.

There are a lot of “f” bombs and open door bedroom scenes so be warned if that’s not your thing.

I have to say I am tempted to take a look at the next book in the series – the characters and the whole family aspect, plus true royal love are very much a plus.

Review

Write My Name Across the Sky. Barbara O’Neal

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Publisher: Lake Union
Date: 10th August 2021
Source: Publisher via Netgalley 

Life’s beautiful for seventysomething influencer Gloria Rose, in her Upper West Side loft with rooftop garden and scores of Instagram followers—until she gets word that her old flame has been arrested for art theft and forgery, and, knowing her own involvement in his misdeeds decades earlier, decides to flee. But that plan is complicated when the nieces she raised are thrown into crises of their own.

Willow, overshadowed by her notorious singer-songwriter mother, has come home to lick her wounds on the heels of a failed album and yet another disastrous relationship. Sam, prickly and fiercely independent, is on the verge of losing not only her beloved video game company but the man she loves, thanks to her inability to keep her always-simmering anger in check.

With the FBI closing in, Willow’s career in shambles, and Sam’s tribulations reaching a peak, each of the three woman will have to reckon with and reconcile their interwoven traumas, past loves, and the looming consequences that could either destroy their futures or bring them closer than ever.

Write My Name Across the Sky  is the story of two sisters, who have had a rather challenging upbringing. Both of them are at tough points in their lives now.

Sam is a creator of video games, but her company is failing and she has fallen out with her best friend Asher. She seems to be a little bit of a loner and really when it comes to some people in her life, has a very sharp tongue that wounds the chosen recipient.

Willow is a talented musician but her life is down in the doldrums as well. She is a gentle, caring person and I liked her. 

Gloria their aunt has looked out for the two and lives in the apartment their mother bought from her days of music fame. She loved being a world traveller but some involvement in an art scam years back seems to be catching up with her.

It took me a little while to get engaged with their lives but very soon I was very involved and wanting to know what would happen to them. And I loved that New York apartment. At the end I think prickly Sam turned into someone I was cheering on.

A warm hearted story of sisters and their aunt, the past catching up with each and a new and better future possible. I really liked the choice of facing up to past mistakes and moving on.

Review

Devil in Disguise. Lisa Kleypas

Devil in Disguise

Published: Avon and Harper Voyager
Date: 27th July 2021
Source: Publicist via NetGalley

Lady Merritt Sterling, a strong-willed beauty who runs a shipping company, knows London society is dying to catch her in a scandal. So far, she’s been too smart to provide them with one. But then she meets Keir MacRae, a rough-and-rugged Scottish whisky distiller, and all her sensible plans vanish like smoke. They couldn’t be more different, but their attraction is powerful, raw and irresistible.

From the moment Keir MacRae arrives in London, he has two goals. One: don’t fall in love with the dazzling Lady Merritt Sterling. Two: avoid being killed.

So far, neither of those is going well.

Keir doesn’t know why someone wants him dead until fate reveals the secret of his mysterious past. His world is thrown into upheaval, and the only one he trusts is Merritt.

Their passion blazes with an intensity Merritt has never known before, making her long for the one thing she can’t have from Keir MacRae: forever. As danger draws closer, she’ll do whatever it takes to save the man she loves . . . even knowing he might be the devil in disguise.

Devil in Disguise by Lisa Kleypas was utterly delicious. A novel I read in a day it was so entertaining.

Merrit and Keir make a fantastic couple. Of course Keir is from Scotland and makes the best whiskey, he lives simply and is a plain honest man. Merrit is the daughter of a Duke and a business woman herself as her husband has died and she is in charge of a shipping business.

I loved that we are meeting a new generation of characters, having been an avid reader of the Wallflower series. Getting acquainted again has made me want to go right back to the beginning and start all over again.  Although if you haven’t read them, you could still read this as a stand alone. But … would be a treat if you haven’t already sampled them.

In this book we have a sexy couple, some intrigue, lots of family and witty dialogue. All key traits of Kleypas’ books. I would have been happy to read on and on with this couple. I want more and more…!

Review

The Lights of Sugarberry Cove. Heather Webber

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Published: Macmillan-Tor/Forge Books
Date: 20th July 2021
Source: Avon Publicist via NetGalley

Sadie Way Scott has been avoiding her family and hometown of Sugarberry Cove, Alabama, since she nearly drowned in the lake just outside her mother’s B&B. Eight years later, Sadie is the host of a much-loved show about southern cooking and family, but despite her success, she wonders why she was saved. What is she supposed to do?

Sadie’s sister, Leala Clare, is still haunted by the guilt she feels over the night her sister almost died. Now, at a crossroads in her marriage, Leala has everything she ever thought she wanted—so why is she so unhappy?

When their mother suffers a minor heart attack just before Sugarberry Cove’s famous water lantern festival, the two sisters come home to run the inn while she recovers.

The Lights of Sugarberry Cove by Heather Webber is a sweet read. Well it is set in Sugarberry Cove after all!

It’s about a mother and her two daughters told from the two daughters point of view. Sadie and Leala. All three are in hard places of various kinds and it takes coming together to sort out all the grief and events that have walled them off from each other and love.

There is a variety of characters who all play there part in making this story a heart warming one with moments of grief. I especially loved the wisdom of Uncle Camp and the child joy of Tucker.

And is has a smidgeon or more of magical realism, something I am a little partial to. I didn’t see how the final twist of this aspect was going to turn out but I loved it.

Family, found family, guilt, grief and love all mingle to make this a book I was sorry to see the ending arrive.

Review

Knot Ready for Murder. Mary Marks

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Published: Kensington
Date: 27th July 2021
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

Before quilter Martha Rose can tie the knot to Crusher, she has to track down his missing first wife…

Oh dear! Just as at last Martha is ready to plunge into saying yes to marriage to Crusher, it is discovered he was married years ago because of an act of kindness.

Who is Martha? Well first and foremost a quilter. But also in recent years she has become a bit of a sleuth when it comes to murders and such like. She is a bit unorthodox in her methods, although fairly orthodox in her Jewish faith, and I love her Sabbath get togethers with family.

There has been one murder, before the story starts.   Hadas, sister of the murdered person, owner of a business, and to be honest not that likeable, makes her appearance.  Oh and she is the “wife” from long ago for Crusher. On the other hand, Fanya who arrives with her was a lot of fun and I so hope we see more of her.

As usual Martha gets herself involved in some unlikely situations, and eventually with lots of assistance I might add, from her family and friends, solves the mystery and enables her life to move forward.

This book felt a little different to the previous ones, I never felt Martha was in any danger and while there were a few red herrings I’d worked out the guilty party early on. I didn’t mind that and thoroughly enjoyed all the quilt talk in this book. If this book appeals to you, don’t start with it, go back to the first one and start there.

Review

Incense and Sensibility. Sonali Dev

Incense and Sensibility

Published: William Morrow
Date: 6th July 2021
Source:Avon Publicist via NetGalley

Yash Raje, California’s first Indian-American gubernatorial candidate, has always known exactly what he wants—and how to use his privileged background to get it. He attributes his success to a simple mantra: control your feelings and you can control the world. But when a hate crime at a rally critically injures his friend, Yash’s easy life suddenly feels like a lie, his control an illusion. When he tries to get back on the campaign trail, he blacks out with panic.

Desperate to keep Yash’s condition from leaking to the media, his family turns to the one person they trust—his sister’s best friend, India Dashwood, California’s foremost stress management coach. Raised by a family of yoga teachers, India has helped San Francisco’s high strung overachievers for a decade without so much as altering her breath. But this man—with his boundless ambition, simmering intensity, and absolute faith in his political beliefs—is like no other.

Yash has spent a lifetime repressing everything to succeed, including their one magical night ten years ago—a too brief, too bright passion that if rekindled threatens to destroy the dream he’s willingly shouldered for his family and community . . . until now.

Sonali Dev takes up the life and times of the Raje family with the story of Yash who is in the middle of a campaign to be governor of California. He has himself in a bit of a tangle as he his along with Naina made it appear that they are a couple, but they are not, just friends mutually helping each other out. Yash really has only eyes for India – a very wise yoga teacher and reiki healer.

What a tangled web we weave when we set out to deceive! Well that should have been Yash’s lament, and at times I wanted to shake him. However reading on and finding out his back story I had sympathy for him and was hoping he’d find his way through the maze.

India is a lovely person, but sort of carries the weight if not of the world at least of her family. Her mother is unwell and her sister has herself involved in a relationship that doesn’t seem to be good for her.

Speaking of mothers I enjoyed the mothers in the story. Especially Yash’s mother when she came all over “mother”. She eventually sized up things well.

There is a stinky dog, a body guard or two who took my heart and numerous other members of Yash’s family we have met previously.

As all romances do, it ended well, but far too abruptly. I wanted just a tad more from the ending. A little more hoop la!