The Island Legacy by Ruth Saberton

island-legacyWhen Ness Penwellyn unexpectedly inherits a Cornish island it isn’t long before she encounters property developer, Max Reynard. Wealthy and wickedly handsome, Max is accustomed to getting his own way but Ness is unimpressed. His assumption she’ll sell her inheritance to him makes Ness determined to go it alone – even while bitter relatives plot revenge and circumstances begin to spiral out of control.

Max Reynard is a rich and powerful playboy. Used to winning, in matters of business and the heart, he’s shocked to meet a woman able to resist his money and good looks. And when he realises he wants Ness even more than he wants her property, Max knows he’s in big trouble.

Before long Ness and Max are locked in a battle of wills. And when love’s involved, the rules of engagement are soon broken …

I discovered Ruth Saberton some years ago, when she released Katy Carter Wants a Hero. Having holidayed several times in Polperro, I could picture the scenes she was describing in that book so clearly, and I loved the style of writing.  Some years later, having read Escape for the Summer, I decided that had replaced Katy as my new Ruth Saberton favourite. However, I’ve just finished The Island Legacy, and I can say, hand on heart, this isn’t just my favourite of Ruth’s books so far, but it’s also one of the best romantic books I’ve read in the last few years.

I was completely hooked from the start. A hint of mystery kicks off the story, and the scene is set…And talking of scenes, oh my word! The book is set in Cornwall, and it’s so obvious that the author lives in that glorious county, because she describes it so magnificently that I felt as if I was right there with the sun in my face, tasting the salt spray, hearing the lapping of waves and the cries of the seagulls, gazing across the causeway to the magical St Pirran’s Island and staring in awe at the ruins of Pirran Castle.

As a fan of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five, I couldn’t help but think of Kirrin Island, but that only added to the magic for me. Clearly, St Michael’s Mount is the inspiration for St Pirran’s, and it’s made me want to head over there and visit for myself! There is something quite special about islands, after all, and there’s something very special about Cornwall, so a Cornish island was inevitably going to produce something extraordinary, and this story really is outstanding.

Every character was a joy to spend time with: the fragile Fern with her mysterious past; handsome and cheery Merryn, who transports the tourists to the island on his boat, when the causeway is covered by the sea; gifted, grieving Adam and his musically-talented little boy, Josh; Merryn’s unusual gran, Rose; the wonderfully kind and caring, but terribly put-upon Lucy; strong-willed, determined Ness; and equally stubborn Max, a man who dabbles in the shallow waters of flashy boats, trashy girlfriends, and showy buildings, yet dives the depths of kindness, charity and compassion.

Then there are the characters who are no longer alive, but whose story threads through the lives of the island family. Why did the famous, talented composer Armand stop making music? Why did the three brothers fall out? What really happened to Ness’s mother, the beautiful but tragic Beth? And, perhaps most puzzling of all, why did Armand leave St Pirran’s Island to Ness?

Ness wants answers to all these questions, and she is determined to find them, in spite of the best efforts of her cousin Jamie, whose fury at being denied what he considers his birthright knows no limits. In spite of Lucy’s attempts to defend her brother, Ness knows Jamie is not to be trusted, and the fact that he appears to be in league with Max Reynard only confirms her suspicions about both men. But Max is a complex man – certainly not the sort of person he initially appears to be. He certainly meets his match in Ness, who is far from impressed by money or reputation, but is frighteningly vulnerable to a pair of grey eyes…

Max is equally enthralled by long, red hair and sea-green eyes, so, as the two begin a relationship that is, outwardly at least, purely a tug of war for ownership of the island, below the surface passions flare and desire smoulders.  But Ness is determined to hang on to St Pirran’s Island one way or the other, and Max is used to getting what he wants, and what he wants most in the world is that island. Or is it?

As the summer unfolds, both Max and Ness have to think carefully about what really matters to them, and the answer may not be what they thought at all.

With three gorgeous romances unfolding, a villain that the reader will love to hate, a mystery to solve, an ancient castle, a beautiful island, a fabulous Cornish setting, and a hero and heroine who are absolutely compelling, this is a novel to treasure. I really can’t praise it enough, and, although I was turning the pages as fast as I could, to find out what would happen, I was so sorry to finally reach the end and leave St Pirran’s behind me. I suspect it will be a book I return to again. Like Cornwall itself, it’s something I just can’t bear to say goodbye to forever. 5/5

You can buy The Island Legacy here.

Going Backwards to Move Forwards

Oh, the joys of writing! Just when you think you’ve got it sussed, that things are coming together, that everything’s finally working out, bang! There’s another obstacle in your path, and you have to stop, try not to panic, wrack your brains to work out who put that obstacle there and how the heck you’re going to move it. Sometimes, you wonder why you bother, but deep down, you know you bother because you care. Because it matters. Because you love it. But, boy, can it be tough going.

learner_l_plate_sticker_largeThose of you who have followed this blog for a long time (thank you! Aren’t you good?) may remember that – back in the mists of time – I used to have driving lessons. Those were the days. I wasn’t the most confident of drivers, but then, I’m not the most confident at anything – a fact that is pointed out to me with annoying frequency by a variety of well-meaning friends and family members. I was fifty. My mind was turning to mush. My concentration and memory weren’t as they used to be. I had – you know – stuff to deal with. All things which convinced me, deep down, that I would never pass my test. I was doomed to fail. And so I did.

The annoying thing is, I would have passed but for one stupid mistake. I went into the wrong lane at a roundabout and ended up cutting lanes which, my examiner duly informed me, was a serious error and instant failure. So that was that. Now, if I’d had a brain cell to spare, I would have sulked a bit, had a good moan about the unfairness of grumpy driving examiners, miserable weather, busy traffic, stupid roundabout rules and life in general, then I would have booked the test again and carried on with driving lessons in the meantime. But me, being me, I decided I was rubbish at driving and didn’t venture near a car again – except as an increasingly nervous passenger.

In my defence, I moved house twice within six weeks of my test – yes, honestly! – and had my daughter’s wedding to attend, and then it was Christmas…You know how it goes. So the driving got put on the back burner, and as time went on, well, my nerve just failed. I didn’t have the courage to think about taking another driving test. They were far too scary and stressful. The longer I waited, the more scared I got. It got to the point where even the thought of driving a car terrified me. What if I made a mistake? What if I hurt someone? Or worse? Cars are lethal weapons, after all. Better to stick to buses.

Hmm. People who follow me on Facebook might have become aware that my bus journeys into work every day are bus-923199_1920an ordeal. Buses running late, learner bus drivers who take forty-five minutes to complete a twenty-five minute journey, thus making me miss the second bus and causing me to be late for work, gridlocked traffic around the bus station, and a variety of, er, interesting passengers and scary encounters…No, public transport isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Not when you have to get two buses to work every day, at any rate. I was permanently stressed about it, and the recent dismal weather hasn’t helped. You get a lot of time to think, standing at bus stops in the pouring rain, watching smug people driving by in their cars. And what I was thinking, mainly, was, why the hell didn’t I retake my test?

chalkboard-1927332_1920So, almost three and a half years on from failing that first attempt, I plucked up the courage to contact my driving instructor, and, to my enormous relief, she was ready and willing to pick up where we left off. Last week, I got back into the driving seat. My hands were shaking, my heart was pounding, and my legs had turned to jelly, but I did it. Within ten minutes, the nerves had all but gone, and I was enjoying myself. Yes, I made loads of mistakes. Yes, she had to coax me along, remind me to change gear, direct me into the right lane at the roundabouts (dratted roundabouts!) but I was remembering that I used to enjoy driving. How had I forgotten?

I’ve just had my second lesson. I loved it. Yes, it was annoying because she seems intent on making me drive round every roundabout in the city, but I’m remembering now about slowing down, changing gear, getting in the right lane, checking the mirror, indicating, not going too fast…It’s coming back to me. It’s slotting into place. It’s making sense. And I know that, at some point, I’ll be ready for the driving test again, and hopefully I will pass. And if I don’t, well, I’ll take it again until I do pass. As long as I’ve learned how to drive, passing the test is just a matter of time.

And what has this got to do with writing? Well, I’ve been struggling lately with The New Book. It was all going so well board-228826_1280at first. The words flowed, the idea seemed like a good one, I was having fun…Then, suddenly, I hit a wall. It was like, okay, but now what? I knew where I wanted to end up, but I had no idea how to get there. Reading the last scene I’d written, the other day, I realised it was a pointless scene; it didn’t further the story, it added nothing to it. It was filler. A stop gap. A way of telling myself that I was still writing and the book was moving forward. A bit like telling yourself that you have an awful lot going on, and the driving lessons can wait for a while.

Then I stopped writing all week, because I was too scared that I was making things worse. What if I wrote myself into a dead end? What if I ended up ruining all the good stuff I’d already written by adding rubbish? What if I ended up absolutely hating the whole project? You know. A bit like telling yourself that the buses are getting you to work every day, anyway, so what does it matter if you can’t drive?

Yesterday, I sat and had a long think about The New Book. I took it back to basics. What did the heroine want? What did the hero want? What was stopping them from getting what they wanted?  What was this book about?

light-bulb-1002783_1920I opened a document, and I began to type. Not a new scene, but working out the answers to those questions. I looked back at the scenes I’d already written. I saw what fitted with those answers and what didn’t. I understood which parts would have to be cut, and what needed to be added to move the story forwards. I wrote a brief outline for future scenes which would keep the story moving in the right direction. The fear left me. I realised that, as long as I understood how to drive the book along, and where I was going with it, successful completion was just a matter of time.

Sometimes, you have to go backwards to move forwards. You can’t just get into a car after three and a half years and expect to be test-ready instantly. You have to relearn, remember, build yourself back up and absorb the instruction. And you can’t always write the first draft of a book from beginning to end, no matter how much you think you’ve planned it, and no matter how sure you are that you know where you’re going. You have to pause, think about it, restructure, re-plot, cut, take a deep breath…Mirror, signal, manoeuvre, and off you go again.

I’ll get there in the end – with both things!

Have a great week.

Sharonxxx (3)

Fur Coat & No Knickers by Adrienne Vaughan

Oh, I really adored this book! I have read Adrienne Vaughan’s full-length novels and loved them all – The Hollow Heart, A Change of Heart, and Secrets of the Heart, highly recommended! – so I was a bit worried, if I’m being really honest, about reading her collection of short stories. Could someone, so clearly gifted at writing novels, transfer that talent to the craft of short story writing? It’s not as straightforward as many people suppose. Full-length books and short stories are different beasts and take different skills. Could Adrienne do it?

Well, of course she could! And so she did. This collection is absolutely wonderful. It’s a series of snapshots – peeps into the lives of a varied assortment of characters. Each and every one of them is interesting, but for different reasons. Some are poignant, some hilariously funny. My favourite stories were: The Messenger, a longer short story, absolutely gripping, with some beautiful characterisation; Fur Coat and No Knickers, which is really witty and amusing; the gentle story of The Adventuress; and the heart-rending A Visit at Christmas.

But the book doesn’t just showcase Adrienne’s talent for short story writing. It also shows off her poetic skills. I loved the variety of poems, sprinkled between the short stories, signalling a change of mood, or heralding a forthcoming story theme, or simply providing a breathing space before plunging the reader headlong into the next tale. Among my favourites are A Pink Day, Friends in Graveyards, Marco – My Eldest (bliss!), Southsands September, and Middle Aged Crush.

When I started reading this, I really did think it would be the sort of book that I would be able to dip in and out of, reading a story here, a poem there…Little did I realise how addictive the contents of this book would be! I read it all in two sittings, and it would have been one sitting if it wasn’t for the annoying matter of the pesky day job!

In conclusion, all I can really say is, try this book for yourself. It really is a delight, and I hope Adrienne releases another volume of short stories and poems soon. Well, as soon as she’s published her next novel, please. 🙂 5/5

You can buy Fur Coat and No Knickers here.

fur-coat

 

Never Coming Back by Deirdre Palmer

Whenever I read one of Deirdre Palmer’s books, I’m always struck by how beautifully she writes. With just a few deft sentences, she can evoke the essence of a character, a setting, a mood. Her writing is gentle and considered, yet she possesses the enviable ability to pull the reader into the story and keep them there, as she takes her time to allow the story to unfold at its natural pace.

Never Coming Back is, I think, a new high, even for Deirdre.  It’s the story of coming to terms with loss, coping with guilt, and learning to live again. At the centre of the story is Danni, who died while at a party during her last term at university. Although we never meet her, she overshadows the entire book, as we follow her best friend, Layla, and her heartbroken parents, Melody and Reece, as they try to rebuild their lives and move on.

They are all dealing with feelings of guilt, grief and pain, and the author explores how, although they mourn the same person, that loss affects them in very different ways. Each one is nursing a secret, which impacts on their interactions with each other, and with their lives beyond their own, somewhat claustrophobic, relationship.

Melody clings to Layla, in a manner which both stifles and alarms her husband, and the object of her new devotion. Reece is feeling wounded, rejected, and bewildered. When a new emotion manages to touch his heart, it’s hardly the cause for rejoicing, but merely another problem to deal with. And for Layla, guilt is preventing her from breaking free of the ties that bind her, yet also stops her from moving on and reaching out to forge new bonds.

When Layla meets Morgan, he is dealing with his own loss, and the two of them connect immediately. But Layla is carrying too heavy a burden to deal with, and the time doesn’t feel right for her to build a new life with him. How can she look to enjoy a happy future with Morgan, when Danni has been so cruelly denied her own future, thanks, Layla believes, to her?

Never Come Back is an absolutely gorgeous book – an unhurried, gently unfolding story of how we cope with grief, learn to unpack our guilt, and move on to live a different sort of life after loss. There is a tender romance, some humorous moments, and an observant look at family life. In spite of the subject matter, it leaves you feeling warm, satisfied, and optimistic. It’s a real gem of a novel and I highly recommend it. 5/5

You can buy Never Coming Back here.

51ctcugsirl-_uy250_

Air Guitar and Caviar by Jackie Ladbury

I was so delighted to get my hands on this book by my Write Romantic pal, Jackie Ladbury, as I’ve been dying to read it for ages. I knew Jackie’s writing style would appeal to me, having loved her short story in our charity anthology, Winter Tales, and being lucky enough to get a sneak peek at the first three chapters a few months ago. Finally, the book is available to buy, and it’s every bit as good as I thought it would be.

It’s the story of Dylan, a street busker with two huge ambitions – to make it as a musician, and to win the heart of the lovely Scarlett. It’s difficult to tell which of these ambitions matter the most to him. Both seem to be of equal importance, and as vital to him as breathing.

Scarlett is an air hostess with a past. Attracted though she is to Dylan, previous experience has taught her to be very wary, and she has enough to deal with, coping with a lecherous boss. Her heart is very definitely closed for business, and the last thing she wants is a would-be rock star knocking at its door, demanding to be let in.

In spite of herself, Scarlett is won over by Dylan, but shadows from Scarlett’s past hang over the present, jeopardising their future. Both of them will have to decide what’s most important to them, and battle mistrust and jealousy, if they’re to have any kind of future together.

Air Guitar and Caviar is a lovely romance, with well-drawn, fully-rounded characters, some rather passionate love scenes, and a lot of humour. I absolutely defy anyone not to fall in love with Dylan within the first page. He is a gorgeous hero in every sense of the word, and his laid-back, open, totally honest personality makes him the ideal partner for the wounded, scared, somewhat withdrawn Scarlett.

There are plenty of minor characters populating the pages, too, with some fabulous names like Beanie and Axel. The story takes in a wide variety of them, from a down-and-out sleeping in a shop doorway, a cute child, and a beautiful ex-girlfriend,  through to a brusque showbusiness agent and a vile airline pilot. The writing never lapses into over-sentimentality, but the author really gets to the heart of the matter with a deft assurance and a light touch.

Jackie writes beautifully, with such humour and some beautiful observations. The story flows effortlessly, and is a complete joy to read. It was definitely worth waiting for, and I am really excited to see what the next book will be! A sparkling debut.

You can buy Air Guitar and Caviar here.

agand-caviar

Every Woman for Herself by Trisha Ashley

Every Woman for Herself is another brilliant Trisha Ashley novel. Her heroine is one Charlotte (Charlie) Fry, nee Rymer, whose extremely selfish husband decides their marriage is over (a fait accompli, apparently) and basically clears off back to Saudi on his next business trip, leaving Charlie to pick up the pieces and start again. Charlie doesn’t sit around, weeping and wailing. She decides to get on with her life, and, after a rather unfortunate episode with a frying pan that is just a joy to read, in a rather guilty way, she heads home to her father’s house on the Yorkshire moors.

Charlie’s amorous father has had a long string of mistresses, and his current one, the glamorous Jessica, is currently living at the Parsonage (not a real Parsonage, just its name) along with her two children. It’s rather crowded, as, besides Charlie’s older sister Em, who is most definitely in charge of the place, their other sister, Anne, has returned home, as has brother Bran, an absolutely extraordinary character.  It’s quite difficult to tell whether Bran is mad or just very, very clever. Either way, eccentric doesn’t even begin to cover it, but I loved reading about him. As you can probably tell, Charlie’s father had a real interest in the Brontes and was trying to recreate them, in some sort of strange experiment. He’s another eccentric!

In the family’s cottage, just down the road,  the exotic-looking famous actor, Mace North, and his little girl are staying, while Mace works on his play. When Charlie’s misadventures in her new job lead to her being sacked, Em arranges for her to work for Mace, taking care of his daughter, and before long they have built up quite a rapport. With the help of Em, who is now dabbling in the dark arts, Mace falls under Charlie’s spell – at least, that’s what Charlie believes. Funny, then, that Gloria’s potion to remove the spell doesn’t seem to work.  The all-seeing Gloria isn’t keen on Mace, and doesn’t want him to get his hands on Charlie. She sees nothing but disaster in such a union. On the other hand, she could be getting mixed up.

Em, who is keeping a tight rein on the house, is fighting a determined battle to prevent Jessica from taking over her home and changing the way things are done. Nothing is going to distract her from that purpose. Or is it?

Anne, a war correspondent, is fighting a different sort of battle, and she’s taking it all in her stride, including moving on from the boyfriend who badly let her down, just when she needed him most.

It’s a chaotic household, but it’s very much held together with love and laughter, and the Parsonage has always been the place that the family can return to and find things carrying on, pretty much as what passes for normal in the Rymer family. So, when Jessica announces that she is marrying their father, and then decides they are going to sell the Parsonage and move into a more modern, comfortable house, it’s a real blow to them all. Can the Rymers pull together and stay together? Especially after a particularly disturbing piece of information about Charlie and Bran comes to light.

With a lovestruck, leather-clad vicar, a group of friendly, neighbourhood witches, and a vengeful widow who is determined to wreck Charlie’s life, this is an extremely entertaining novel. Then there’s Skint Old Northern Woman, a real stroke of genius on Charlie’s (and the author’s!) part. Throw in the unsentimental warmth of the family relationships, the smouldering sex appeal of Mace North, dogs, children, and laugh-out-loud scenes, and you have a really wonderful story that’s an absolute joy to read.

Definitely five stars from me!

You can buy Every Woman for Herself here.

every

 

Every Woman for Herself was the first book I’ve read for the Jera’s Jamboree Reading Challenge. It ticks the box for the category, “A book you own but haven’t read”. If you’d like to take part in the challenge, click here.

Merry Christmas

text-1892882_1280It’s Christmas Eve! I can’t quite believe that the big day is almost upon us. It seemed to be hovering in the distance for such a long time, and now it’s so close I can practically hear those sleigh bells. I think I say the same thing every year!

Christmas preparations are almost done. I don’t have children living at home any more, so it’s not as frantic as it used to be when I had five little ones, all with very high expectations of a perfect day. No pressure there, then! It’s a lot easier, now, with just the husband and the dog to think about. On the other hand, I can’t deny that it’s lost a certain something. I do miss having the kids around most at Christmas. They were noisy, chaotic and very messy, but Christmases with five children at home were also amazing, exciting, and rekindled the joy of the festive season in me every year.

How are your Christmas preparations going? This year, I actually managed to write all my cards and post them or presents-153926_1280give them out in time. I can’t remember the last time I managed that. The last of the food shopping is being delivered today, and I’ve already had an email to say there are no major substitutions, which for Christmas Eve, is pretty impressive. Even the presents are wrapped, and most of them have already been delivered.

Of course, not everything’s gone according to plan. Two parcels have gone astray. One was delivered to the sorting depot on the 9th December and hasn’t been seen since. Investigations are in progress but I’ve heard nothing so far, and I doubt I will now, this side of  January. The other was delivered to some mysterious person at some mysterious address. It was signed for, but no one has come forward to tell me they have it. Again, investigations are in progress…Hmm. I actually ordered the item again, as I couldn’t hang around while the company tried to figure out what had happened, but there has been no sign of that one at all. Can’t say I’m impressed with the delivery company. Amazon, on the other hand, have been brilliant. Everything ordered from them has arrived well on time. There have even been Sunday deliveries! Impressive.

quotes-933816_1920The thing is, whatever’s not here now isn’t going to be here for Christmas, and it’s no use worrying about it. I’m determined not to stress about all this stuff. It’s sad but true that the most wonderful time of the year is also the time when we lose sight of everything that matters, lost in a fog of panic, and a dreadful fear of failure. Today I’m seeing some of my kids and grandchildren, watching my favourite film, It’s a Wonderful Life, and maybe even treating myself to a festive snowball! Christmas is for enjoying, and I intend to do just that. It’s too easy to get caught up in believing you have to have the “perfect” Christmas, and thinking that to achieve that you have to tick off every single thing on your to-do list, when, really, none of it matters at all.  I think this poem by Sir John Betjeman sums it up perfectly:

Christmas

The bells of waiting Advent ring,
The Tortoise stove is lit again
And lamp-oil light across the night
Has caught the streaks of winter rain
In many a stained-glass window sheen
From Crimson Lake to Hookers Green.

The holly in the windy hedge
And round the Manor House the yew
Will soon be stripped to deck the ledge,
The altar, font and arch and pew,
So that the villagers can say
‘The church looks nice’ on Christmas Day.

Provincial Public Houses blaze,
Corporation tramcars clang,
On lighted tenements I gaze,
Where paper decorations hang,
And bunting in the red Town Hall
Says ‘Merry Christmas to you all’.

And London shops on Christmas Eve
Are strung with silver bells and flowers
As hurrying clerks the City leave
To pigeon-haunted classic towers,
And marbled clouds go scudding by
The many-steepled London sky.

And girls in slacks remember Dad,
And oafish louts remember Mum,
And sleepless children’s hearts are glad.
And Christmas-morning bells say ‘Come!’
Even to shining ones who dwell
Safe in the Dorchester Hotel.

And is it true? And is it true,
This most tremendous tale of all,
Seen in a stained-glass window’s hue,
A Baby in an ox’s stall ?
The Maker of the stars and sea
Become a Child on earth for me ?

And is it true ?  For if it is,
No loving fingers tying strings
Around those tissued fripperies,
The sweet and silly Christmas things,
Bath salts and inexpensive scent
And hideous tie so kindly meant,

No love that in a family dwells,
No carolling in frosty air,
Nor all the steeple-shaking bells
Can with this single Truth compare –
That God was man in Palestine
And lives today in Bread and Wine.

christmas-934177_1920I fully appreciate that not everyone believes that “God was man in Palestine”, but the Christmas message of love, hope, and forgiveness is relevant to everyone – and maybe it’s more important than ever in these troubled times.
So I’d like to wish you all a very merry, peaceful Christmas. Have fun, make memories, and remember to enjoy it – even if you don’t get the exact present you wanted, or the turkey’s too dry, or Uncle Bill gets completely sozzled and falls asleep with his head in the pudding. One day, you’ll look back on Christmas 2016, and you won’t remember the things you forgot to do, or the things that didn’t arrive in time. You’ll remember the love, the laughs, and the feelings. That’s Christmas for you.
Have a good one!
Sharonxxx (3)