Beauty and the Recluse by Ellie Gray

Kiya is still grieving for her father when she heads out into the Yorkshire countryside on her bicycle, and chances upon an advertisement in a post office window. A local man apparently needs a housekeeper, and Kiya is intrigued to find that the ladies in the shop are astonished that she seems interested in the job. She is told that the man is “strange”, but she decides that she has nothing to lose by applying. She has lost both her parents to cancer in the last few years, her home is up for sale, and she has little reason to ignore this chance of a fresh start.
She’s startled to be taken on as housekeeper, after only having an extremely brief telephone conversation with the reclusive stranger. It appears that the ladies in the post office were right. St John is a little strange, after all. In fact, when Kiya arrives at the house and discovers a note pinned to the door, advising her to stay out of his way and even avoid the kitchen at certain times, she begins to wonder what on earth she’s let herself in for.
Bumping into her elusive employer unexpectedly, she reacts with shock, and St John, already convinced that he is a monster, unfit to be seen by outsiders, determines to keep her even further at bay.
Kiya sets to work, bringing life back to a neglected house, restoring it to its former beauty. As she weaves her spell upon his home, St John finds that she has begun to work her magic on him, too, reminding him of happier times, when he knew how to laugh and how to enjoy someone else’s company. Bit by bit, Kiya repairs the damage to the house, and tries to repair the damage to its owner. But though St John’s physical scars may not be as bad as he fears, his emotional wounds will take a lot more tending. Can Kiya reach the lonely, tortured man behind the aloof facade, or will St John’s pain ensure he remains forever a sad recluse?
I absolutely loved this novel, reading it in one sitting. I found myself completely absorbed from the first page, and couldn’t put it down. Kiya is a lovely heroine, full of compassion and understanding, but with enough spirit to ensure St John’s defensive attitude doesn’t break her. Dominic – St John’s best friend, and the only person who really knows him – is an excellent character. He has empathy, humour, kindness, and a streak of mischief. As for St John himself – well, I couldn’t help but fall for him. I understood his behaviour, and longed for him to believe in himself enough to take a chance.
This is a gorgeous, unashamedly romantic tale of two people who have been through harrowing times, finding each other, and helping each other to heal. It’s the sort of book that leaves you feeling all contented and satisfied, and with a feeling that love really can conquer everything. A wonderful debut novel. 5/5

You can buy Beauty and the Recluse here.51Q6U-nq3VL._UY250_

Getting Over Gary by Jessica Redland

I greatly enjoyed Searching for Steven, Jessica Redland’s previous full-length novel in the Whitsborough Bay series, and I also loved her novella, Raving About Rhys, so I was wondering if she would be able to come up with something that I enjoyed as much. In the event, I discovered that Getting Over Gary is my favourite of her books, so far.
The story revolves around Elise, best friend of Sarah, who featured in Searching for Steven. Elise is a lovely heroine, and I really felt her shock and pain as she makes a discovery that will change the course of her life. Her grief is compounded by the events in her sister’s and Sarah’s lives. Surrounded by happy couples and expectant parents, Elise is struggling to cope with her pain. Everything in her world has changed. Everything she thought she knew has been proven to be a lie. How can she start to put her life back together again?
Elise goes on a journey of discovery. Having been half of a couple since she was a teenager, she now has to learn who she is, and what she wants from life, now that her husband is out of the equation. Sometimes, she makes mistakes. Her judgement is a little off-balance occasionally – but how can it not be? She’s lonely, sad, confused and angry. The future she had mapped out for herself no longer exists. She has to grieve not only for what she had and lost, but for what she might have had and never will. So, of course, she’s going to make mistakes and plot a haphazard course for a while.
The great thing about Elise is that she doesn’t give up. Even with her dreams in tatters, she picks herself up and tries to mend herself, her way. Trying to put a brave face on things for the sake of her friend and sister shows what a kind and caring person she is. I really felt for her when she confronted her own mother – an awful old bat of a woman who was enough to crush the confidence of anyone, let alone someone as vulnerable as Elise. As for her mother-in-law! Words fail me.
I loved following Elise’s journey as she battled to get over Gary. I was rooting for her all the way through the book, and I really hoped she would get her happy ending. I won’t say what happens, but suffice it to say I had a big smile on my face when I came to the end.
Lovely, warm writing, great setting, characters you can really relate to, and a satisfactory conclusion. I’m now looking forward to reading the last in the Whitsborough Bay series, although I will be very sad to say goodbye. 5/5
You can buy Getting Over Gary here.