Dreaming About Daran by Jessica Redland

I’ll be honest and say that I tend to take longer and longer to read books these days. I used to fly through them, but there are so many distractions in life, and calls on my time, not to mention the annoyance of eyes that get tired much quicker than they used to, that I find it can take a week or two to work my way through a novel – even a novel that I’m really enjoying. I read this book, Dreaming About Daran, in one day, which, to me, says it all.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Jessica Redland’s Whitsborough Bay series. Searching for Steven was good, and had an interesting premise, a lovely setting, and warm, believable characters. I was delighted when its sequel, Getting Over Gary, proved to be an even better read. For me, though, the series hits its pinnacle with Dreaming About Daran.

Clare was always the odd one out in the trio of friends. Not as warm or “cosy” as Sarah and Elise, not as romantic, nor as family-oriented, she always seemed on the outside, somehow. In Getting Over Gary, we saw her soften a little in her attitude to Elise, and without wishing to give anything away, she emerged as more likeable. I always felt, though, that there was something buried deep within Clare that, one day, would make an explosive story. I was right.

Dreaming About Daran is much deeper than its predecessors. I think each book in this series has grown progressively darker, tackling more serious issues, but in this final instalment, Jessica Redland has created a really gripping and quite gut-wrenching story.

I can’t go into any details, as I don’t want to risk spoiling it for new readers, but suffice it to say, Clare has to make a journey away from the life she has built for herself, into the world she left behind – a world so painful that she has managed to bury it. Or so she thinks.

There is humour, of course, and warmth, and friendship, and all the usual Jessica Redland trademarks that ensure a joyous read, but there is so much more to it than that. Secrets and lies, shock and fear, pain and grief, all combine to lead the reader through a most unexpected path into the darkness of Clare’s past. There is a great deal to be uncovered before we can walk safely out into the sunshine again.

For me, personally, this is by far my favourite of the three books, and I felt quite sorry to reach the end of the trilogy. The good news is that, with a writer this talented, I’m sure I’ll have new stories to read by Jessica Redland before long. I can’t wait to see where she takes us next! 5/5

You can buy Dreaming About Daran here

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The Dirigible King’s Daughter by Alys West

Anyone who knows me will tell you that Whitby is one of my favourite places, so any book set there is always going to attract my attention. I’ll hold my hands up and admit I’ve never read steampunk before, but when the Write Romantics published our charity anthology Winter Tales, ┬áit included a short story called A Pistol for Propriety, written by Alys, and I’d long thought that the story deserved to be expanded upon. Luckily, Alys had the same thought, and the result is this wonderful novel.

I was quickly drawn into this snapshot of an alternative Whitby – imagining dirigibles sailing by Whitby Abbey, piloted by handsome men wearing flying jackets, helmets and goggles – men like Charlie, or Viscount Davenport, to give him his proper title.

Charlie is a real hero, but he’s more than matched by the independent “New Woman” Harriet Hardy. Harriet has had many troubles and heartaches to overcome, and has learned to defend herself in a man’s world. Unfortunately, her self-defence lands her in a lot of trouble, and her actions plunge both her and Charlie into an unexpected adventure.

As the net tightens around them both, an unorthodox solution is presented to Harriet, but the shadows of the past are all around her. She is the Dirigible King’s daughter, and that’s a heavy burden for her to carry. And Charlie may be a good man, but is it fair to drag him into the murky depths of her family’s shame?

With a chase across Whitby, journeys on steam powered omnibuses, and flights through the air in the wondrous dirigibles, this is a romance with a twist. Lots of fun, lots of adventure…And lots of tea. A really wonderful treat to read.

You can buy The Dirigible King’s Daughter here.

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Summer At Skylark Farm by Heidi Swain #AugustReviews

August has been designated as the month for reviews, so if you’ve read a book you’ve enjoyed recently, why not head over to Amazon and tell other people all about it? You don’t have to write an essay. A line or two will do, and it will mean the world to the author. Trust me, I know!

With that in mind, I decided to post a review for a book I read recently – Summer at Skylark Farm by Heidi Swain. Here it is:

This is a lovely feel-good story from Heidi Swain! I confess, I haven’t got round to reading The Cherry Tree Cafe yet, but even though this is a follow-on novel, it didn’t matter, and it didn’t detract one iota from my enjoyment of the story.
I was drawn to the book by the lovely cover, and I was very relieved to find that the contents lived up to the promise of the pretty artwork. This is the story of a city girl, with a busy career and a hectic life, who moves to the countryside for the sake of love. Where many women might crumble in the face of starting a whole new life, Amber gets on with things, and throws herself heart and soul into making a success not only of her relationship with boyfriend Jake, but of Skylark Farm, too.
It’s not easy. She has left behind everyone she knows, and finds herself living with Jake’s aunt, and surrounded by his friends. Not only that, but Jake is definitely keeping secrets, and she’s pretty sure that his friends are in on them. But Amber’s not one to be easily deterred, and she rolls up her sleeves, pulls on her wellies and gets on with it.
Before long, she’s won over Jake’s family and friends, and she realises she’s falling in love with her new home. But Jake’s past is about to catch up with them, and secrets are about to be revealed. Dark clouds are gathering, and soon Amber’s future looks to be in doubt. Can sunshine return to Skylark Farm? Can Amber turn around the fortunes of her new home? And can she and Jake survive the biggest shock of all?
I thoroughly enjoyed this lovely story, and I will definitely be catching up with The Cherry Tree Cafe before long. A real summery treat.

You can buy Summer at Skylark Farm here.

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