Return to Port Agnes by Jo Bartlett

Return to Port Agnes is the first in The Cornish Midwives series of novels

The last thing Ella Mehenick wants is the fifteen minutes of fame she’s found herself landed with. After all, who wants to star in a viral video of the very public ending of their relationship?

Newly single, and desperate to get as far away from her former fiancé as possible, Ella heads back to the Cornish seaside town of Port Agnes, where she grew up.

Working as a community midwife keeps her busy and, even if some of the locals seem to have an unhealthy fascination with the breakdown of her relationship, the other midwives soon make her feel like one of the team. Despite her disastrous dating history, Ella manages to play matchmaker to her new best friend and even dodges her parents’ attempts to get her to settle down with the boy next door.

Her only problem is Dan Ferguson, who seems hell bent on destroying a local landmark, which will tear the heart out of Port Agnes. When Dan turns out to be the one person who can help Ella, after a high risk pregnancy puts a patient in danger, she discovers he’s not the man she thought he was. But getting to know the real Dan is not as easy as she’d like it to be…

Someone in Port Agnes is determined not to let her move on from the past and will stop at nothing to make sure no-one forgets why Ella is back in town, even if that means breaking the law.

Will she ever be allowed to enjoy her return to Port Agnes, or are some things just impossible to leave behind?

You only have to look at that series title to know you’re going to be in for a treat. As a huge fan of series like Call the Midwife and Doc Martin, I knew this was going to be a pleasure to read when I saw it was the first in the new Cornish Midwives series. I wasn’t wrong.
Following a major personal embarrassment that went viral on social media, Ella returns to her home town of Port Agnes in beautiful Cornwall to take up a position as a midwife at the local unit. She is soon making her rounds, getting to know the expectant mothers in the Port Agnes area, sharing in their joys and fears and becoming part of their lives at one of the most important times they will ever experience.
Not all the mums-to-be are having an easy time. With phobias and unexpected pregnancies, some of them need Ella’s help more than others. Then there’s Tara, whose husband seems to be the most selfish and uncaring of fathers-to-be. When Ella spots him in a compromising situation in a local pub, her opinion of him sinks even lower. But is there more to Dan than she realises?
The Cornish countryside and the rural community comes alive in this novel. A sense of place is always important to me, and I could quite picture myself on the Cornish coast, eating pasties and listening to the cry of the gulls, as I read.
There’s a strong cast of supporting characters and I’m sure many of them will feature in future books in this series. There’s plenty of scope for more stories, as the midwives not only go about their work, but deal with all the twists and turns in their private lives, too.
Jo Bartlett is a lovely writer, and I always know I’m guaranteed a good read when I pick up one of her books. I’m looking forward to the next instalment in this delightful new series and can’t wait for my next trip to Cornwall!

You can buy Return to Port Agnes here.

The Right Mr Wrong by Pat Posner

When Tiphanie tells her boyfriend she’ll have to postpone their holiday to go and help her brother look after their niece and nephew he takes it badly and the consequences are far greater than she expects them to be. 

However, as soon as Tiphanie arrives at her brother’s home in a beautiful area close the salt marshes, she feels it will help bring peace of mind. 

But that isn’t easy to come by when you throw in the crazy antics of two cats (especially as one is undergoing therapy), a couple of lively children, a visit from an old friend that isn’t what it appears to be and the irritating, irksome man across the river who draws many wrong conclusions… 

Sometimes, complications and misunderstandings can be sorted out. But are there just too many of them standing in the way of the ‘Happy Ever After’ Tiphanie dreams of?

I always enjoy Pat Posner’s lovely writing and this book was no exception.
Tiphanie is an illustrator who is too kind for her own good. At the beck and call of her family, she always puts their needs first, something which irritates her boyfriend, Howard. When Howard decides she’s put him last too many times, he sees it as justification to behave very badly indeed, something which not only ends their relationship, but leads to a terrible misunderstanding with a third party that continues to have repercussions for Tiphanie.
Kyle is a writer with a fear of heights and a dislike of cats. He also has severe trust issues after a particularly painful marriage. His mistaken beliefs about Tiphanie and his ensuing rudeness lead her to nickname him Mr Sarky, so it’s not good news for either of them when the two become neighbours – albeit temporarily.
Against the beautiful and serene backdrop of the salt marshlands, misunderstandings abound, confusion arises, and passions are stirred, as Kyle’s and Tiphanie’s paths cross repeatedly and, against all odds, find their feelings for each other changing and deepening.
But will Tiphanie’s loyalty to her family and Kyle’s lack of trust ruin any chance they have of finding lasting happiness?
This is a lovely story with a really atmospheric setting. I loved the idea of a home in an old drainage mill on the marshes, and the descriptions of the wildlife were beautiful. I could hear the frogs, see the herons in my mind’s eye, taste the salt on my lips. The author really brings the location to life and made me want to explore the area for myself.
The two lead characters are eminently likeable – even Mr Sarky, after a bit of a shaky start. Tiphanie’s kind nature and loyalty to her – at times rather selfish – family immediately made me warm to her, and, behind that judgmental and cold exterior, I could sense the pain and fear in Kyle. I was rooting for the two of them to work things out and find happiness at last.
Another delightful story from a very accomplished author.

You can buy The Right Mr Wrong here.

Little Pink Taxi by Marie Laval

Take a ride with Love Taxis, the cab company with a Heart … 
Rosalie Heart is a well-known face in Irlwick – well, if you drive a bright pink taxi and your signature style is a pink anorak, you’re going to draw a bit of attention! But Rosalie’s company Love Taxis is more than just a gimmick – for many people in the remote Scottish village, it’s a lifeline. 

Which is something that Marc Petersen will never understand. Marc’s ruthless approach to business doesn’t extend to pink taxi companies running at a loss. When he arrives in Irlwick to see to a new acquisition – Raventhorn, a rundown castle – it’s apparent he poses a threat to Rosalie’s entire existence; not just her business, but her childhood home too. 

On the face of it Marc and Rosalie should loathe each other, but what they didn’t count on was somebody playing cupid …

Honestly, there was nothing I didn’t love about this book. I adored the beautiful setting of Irlwick in Scotland, the rundown castle, Raventhorn, the pink taxi … I could go on.
At its heart, no pun intended, are the two main characters, Rosalie Heart and Marc Peterson, and they absolutely make this book a joy. Rosalie is kind-hearted, community-spirited and, yes, very stubborn. Marc is a businessman who is used to making money and has never really minded who his company has to destroy to gain a profit. But recently, Marc has changed his mind about how his firm operates, and it could just be that someone like Rosalie could make him see life in a whole new light.
This is much more than a romcom, although it’s very romantic and very funny. For a start, Raventhorn is haunted by ghosts, a fact which adds a whole new dimension to the story. There’s an intriguing subplot concerning Norse mythology, which I found fascinating, and a compelling storyline that deals with sabotage, assaults, kidnap and theft. Really, this book has it all.
And if that sounds like a bad thing – well, it isn’t. The author has deftly plotted this book so that it flows beautifully and everything comes together in a very satisfying conclusion indeed.
I highly recommend this novel. I loved it and will look out for more books by Marie Laval.

The Potter’s Daughter by Jackie Ladbury

Is love powerful enough to cross the class divide?

When Daniel Davenport saves Maddie Lockett and her young brother Tom from drowning, an immediate bond is forged between them. 

But Daniel is an aspiring doctor and son of a wealthy manufacturer, whilst Maddie is a potter’s daughter from a poverty-stricken area of the Potteries. Even a friendship between the two could be frowned upon, let alone anything more …

But Maddie and Daniel want more, and as they grow closer gossip and prejudice look set to spoil their blossoming romance. Do the young couple stand a chance when there are those who would stop at nothing to keep them apart?

I’ve read Jackie Ladbury’s previous novels and loved them all. However, they’ve all been very witty contemporary romances, so this historical romance was something new from her. I wasn’t sure what to expect but I needn’t have worried. I loved this gentle romance between Daniel and Maddie. Despite the obstacles between them, this lovely couple fall in love and together they must deal with all the challenges that their respective backgrounds bring. I am no expert on the history of the potteries, but the historical details ring true and the author’s voice sounds sure and authentic. I was rooting for the couple to make it against all the odds. I hope Jackie Ladbury makes more ventures into the past as her historical fiction is just as entertaining as her contemporary romances. Just wonderful.

Hope’s Cornish Christmas by Jo Bartlett

Hope Malone should be spending Christmas in Manhattan, sipping cocktails in a fancy bar. Instead she’s back in Holly Bay, the quaint little seaside town on the Cornish coast that was her childhood home.

Keeping her beloved Grandpa company is no sacrifice for Hope, though, he means more to her than anyone else in the world. With a job as a freelance editor that’s no longer living up to expectations, and wannabe popstar parents, who’ll do anything for fame, Hope has more than one Christmas wish.

When she meets her favourite author, Jude Thomas, and he turns out to be the rudest man she’s ever met, she hates him on sight. It’s only when she loses the precious pendant her Nana left her, and Jude is the only one able to help her find it, that she begins to see another side to him.

Meeting Jude forces Hope to admit she wants to be a writer, too, despite what she’s told her friends at the Mad Hutters’ writing group she goes to every week. There are already too many dreamers in her family, though. And with her parents starting a rap channel on YouTube – which seems doomed to embarrassing failure – it’s down to Hope to be the sensible one.

Desperately trying to hold onto Nadelik traditions and have a proper Cornish Christmas, Hope pushes her own dreams back down where they belong. But when she discovers that Jude is keeping a secret and he’ll soon be out of her life for good, having a happy Christmas seems like one more impossible dream. 

By Christmas Eve everything has changed and even Hope’s wildest dreams suddenly seem possible. The only things missing are Jude and her Nana’s pendant. Can Hope find the one thing that really matters in time to celebrate the perfect Christmas, or will some dreams always be just beyond her reach?

I really enjoyed this latest novella from Jo Bartlett. It’s quite short, so I read it in one afternoon, and I was carried along by the lovely story of Hope Malone, who is spending Christmas with her grandfather at his home in the Cornish village of Holly Bay. Hope is an editor, but really dreams of being a writer. Having two dreamers for parents, though, she’s reluctant to chase her own dream, and always tries to keep her feet on the ground. Meeting her author hero, Jude Thomas, soon brings her down with a bump anyway, as he seems to be rude, abrupt and insensitive, and not at all as she had imagined he’d be. But maybe Jude has another side to him? When Hope’s pendant goes missing – the precious pendant that once belonged to her beloved Nana – Hope begins to see Jude in another light.
I found this to be a really comforting, cosy read, with great characterisation and a beautiful setting in the Cornish Holly Bay. It’s short enough to read in a few hours, but long enough to contain a thoroughly entertaining and interesting story. Quite possibly, it’s one of my favourite books by this author, and since I’ve read and loved them all, that’s a real achievement. Definitely a five star read!

Christmas Kisses on Hollywell Hill by Jackie Ladbury

Lose yourself in this festive, feel-good, winter romance with a touch of humour. 
“A heart-warming and funny romance – with a delicious hero. Loved the characters – loved the humour.”
“A gorgeous Christmas romance with two very likeable characters, an interesting backdrop of the theatre, and a restaurant set in the stylish town of St Albans.” 

Christmas is coming and actress, Kirsty Castille, is having a crisis of faith. All around her actors are bagging interesting roles in Christmas pantos while she’s stuck as Nag the pantomime horse. By a stroke of luck, she lands the lead role in a well-known musical and can finally wave goodbye to the cast in the seasonal production of Snow White and the Seven Christmas Puddings.
Things get even better when she bonds with handsome chef, Jake Levy, over a piece of squid at her local supermarket. Sadly, romance is the last thing on Jake’s mind. He has a Christmas deadline, an ex-wife to mourn and lots of emotional baggage to drag around – and he certainly wouldn’t fall for someone like Kirsty who craves the limelight: been there, done that. 
A misunderstanding leads Jake to offer Kirsty a job in his new restaurant and she is savvy enough to realise that she will have to take the job offer if she wants to see more of him. 
Her charm offensive appears to work, but while he’s cooking up a storm she’s secretly sparkling under the spotlight – until keeping a low profile becomes impossible. The fallout is catastrophic, but as they say in Luvvie Land, the show must go on, even if Kirsty wonders if she’s taken her last curtain call and ruined her chance for love.
Read on and immerse yourself in this delightful winter romance as the snow starts to fall and Christmas day comes ever nearer.
This gorgeous love story is loosely set in St Albans only half an hour away from London, where chef Jake relocates having lost everything that was dear to him. Enter actress, Kirsty Castille, who lives mostly in a world of her own until she meets Jake and realises she’d quite like to share the real world with him. If only he thought the same, things would be wonderful.

I really, really loved this story! From the very beginning Jackie Ladbury made me laugh out loud. Her writing is sparkling and witty, and she’s created a real gem of a character in Kirsty Castille.
Kirsty is an actress who just can’t seem to catch a break. Until, that is, she meets Jake Levy, at which point everything begins to change – for both of them.
Jake is really struggling, having had a terribly rough deal at the hands of his estranged wife, and he’s trying to pull his life back together by starting over with a new business.
Jake – not surprisingly – has serious trust issues. He’s also feeling pretty low and not really in the festive mood as he pines for his wife and the life they had together.
Kirsty couldn’t be more different from his successful, organised wife. She’s funny, self-deprecating and a bit chaotic. Life with her would be a nightmare. Wouldn’t it?
Jake isn’t ready to move on from his marriage, but Kirsty has a way of getting under his skin and, after all, it is Christmas, and the most amazing things can happen at this magical time of year …
Honestly, I laughed all the way through this book yet, at the same time, the author managed to make my heart ache for the wounded hero and the scatty but thoroughly lovable heroine.
This novel is a real festive treat and I can’t wait to read what’s next from this talented writer.

Christmas at the Chocolate Pot Cafe by Jessica Redland

A few minutes of courage might change your life…

Emotionally, Tara Porter finds the festive period a challenge. Christmas Day is a reminder of the family she lost, and New Year’s Eve holds bitter memories of the biggest mistake of her life: marrying Garth Tewkesbury. Shunning invitations to celebrate, she seeks refuge in her flat with only her giant house bunny, Hercules, for company.

Professionally, though, it’s the best time of year. Tara’s thriving café, The Chocolate Pot, is always packed. With the café hosting a wedding and engagement party, it’s shaping up to be the café’s best Christmas ever.

When former nemesis, Jed Ferguson, threatens the future of The Chocolate Pot, Tara prepares for a fight. The café is everything to her and she’s not going to let anyone or anything jeopardise that. 

Tara badly misjudged ex-husband Garth and, since then, has refused to let anyone in. After all, if you don’t let them in, they can’t hurt you. But has she misjudged Jed too? Is it possible that he’s not the arrogant, deceitful man from whom she bought the café 14 years earlier? Can she find the courage to find out for sure?

I really enjoyed Jessica Redlands’s 2017 Christmas books, Charlee and the Chocolate Shop and Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes, so it was a delight to be back on Castle Street in the seaside town of Whitsborough Bay for another festive season.
Tara has appeared briefly in the previous Christmas on Castle Street books, so it was interesting to learn more about her. And, my word, what a story she has to tell!
With a past full of loss, betrayal, grief, anger and deep sadness, there’s a lot more to Tara than I ever imagined. She’s certainly seen more than her fair share of heartbreak, and it’s no wonder that she no longer lets anyone into her life, preferring to keep other people at arm’s length.
Tara’s life revolves around her successful business, the gloriously named Chocolate Pot Café, and around her housemate, Hercules the giant house rabbit. Yes, you read that right. When I was little, we had a giant rabbit and he was adorable, so I could well picture Hercules, and I loved that Tara shared her home with him. She certainly needed someone to talk to and confide in!
Don’t think, though, that this book is all angst and hand-wringing, because it’s not. Far from it. There’s plenty of the warmth and humour that have become Jessica Redland’s trademark. Tara goes on a journey of discovery that is uplifting and joyful to see, and she’s supported along the way by a whole host of characters that are all too ready to welcome her into their lives, if she’ll only have the courage to let them in.
There is a gentle romance simmering in the background, but this story is about far more than that. This is a story of a woman who has been let down, deceived, and has suffered terrible loss, learning to open her heart again and trust in people. A perfect story for this special time of year.
A truly heartwarming and deliciously festive trip back to Castle Street. I hope we’ll be invited back again next Christmas!

One Magical Christmas by Berni Stevens

Christmas magic doesn’t really exist – does it? 
When Annie Berry collides with Nik Knoll in a car park on the day of her sister’s wedding, it feels like all of Nik’s Christmases have come at once. Annie seems like just the sort of woman he’d like to get to know, and the chance nature of their encounter is almost like, well … Christmas magic. 

But Nik has a secret, and he has to be sure that he can trust Annie before he tells her. The problem is that this secret has a Christmas deadline, and time is running out … 

I adored this story!
Nik meets Annie and the magic begins … This is a gorgeous romcom with a very unusual twist. Nik runs a nursery and keeps several animals on site, including a grumpy pony and a reindeer. He’s also on the lookout for a soulmate. Annie is a veterinary nurse and very much in the shadow of her younger sister.
Annie and Nik quickly fall for each other, but Nik has a secret that might just blow Annie’s mind!
There’s a horrible villain in the story, and an annoying employee of Nik’s father who just won’t leave the couple alone, but this just adds to the lovely fairytale feel of the book.
One Magical Christmas really does bring the spirit of Christmas alive, and if reading this story doesn’t put you in the festive mood then there’s no hope for you! Fabulous.

Finding Dad by Jo Bartlett

A chance discovery in a box of old Christmas decorations changes everything.

Freya Halliwell has always wanted to get married in Kelsea Bay, the place where she spent so many idyllic summers as a child. So when the chance arrives to have a Christmas wedding at Channel View Farm, perched high up on the cliffs above the Bay, everything in her life seems to be falling into place at last—almost two years after losing her beloved mum.

Ellie Hastings is finally making a success of the wedding business she set up after inheriting her great aunt’s farm and, even better than that, she’s about to become a mum for the first time. Christmas is just around the corner, but with runaway sheep causing havoc, a festive fundraiser to host, and the worst snow storm Kelsea Bay has seen in decades, life is anything but quiet.

When Freya uncovers an entry in an old journal, hidden amongst some boxes of Christmas decorations, her life changes forever, and soon everything she thought she knew about herself begins to unravel. Taking refuge at Channel View Farm and leaning on new friend, Ellie, for support, the best she can hope for is to make it through to New Year with some idea of what she wants to do next. But Ellie has problems of her own and, when it’s her turn to ask Freya for help, another big secret starts to unfold, which threatens to change everything for the people they love most.

Can Freya and Ellie find what they’re looking for in time to celebrate Christmas at Channel View Farm, or will it be too late to ever put things right?

Fabrian Books’ feel-good novels leave you with a smile on your face and the belief that good things really can happen. Perfect for the festive season!

Every time I read one of Jo Bartlett’s books I think it’s my new favourite, and Finding Dad is no exception. I love the Channel View Farm books anyway, and this was a welcome and thoroughly enjoyable addition to the series.
It was wonderful to catch up with old friends Karen, Ellie, Alan, Ben, and Liv, and the animals at the farm. It’s always a pleasure to return there and discover what the latest news is. The latest news, in this book, is that poor Karen’s in a wheelchair and Ellie is about to give birth, so there’s a lot to deal with.
We are introduced to a new character, Freya, and her story is the driving narrative for this novel. Poor Freya is bombarded with one shock after another in the opening scenes and, for various reasons, she ends up seeking refuge at Channel View Farm, where she is immediately taken under Ellie’s and Karen’s wings and soon feels almost like part of the family.
But, as welcoming as the Channel View Farm bunch are, Freya still has problems to deal with and a mission to pursue. Her purpose for coming to the farm is all-consuming, and helps to take her mind off the terrible mess her personal life has become, but by the end of her stay, will she be any closer to resolving her issues, or is she going to have a lonely and miserable Christmas?
I don’t want to give away any plot details so I can’t say too much more, but the title, Finding Dad is probably a big enough clue to one of Freya’s dilemmas!
This is a truly gorgeous, festive treat and reinforces what is so important about Christmas – love, the sense of belonging, family, home. I enjoyed every moment of this lovely story, and hope there’ll be another visit to Channel View Farm before too long.

Christmas Roses: More Stories from Broome Park Prefab Village by Pat Posner

Welcome back to Broome Park Prefab Village for this new collection of stories set in the 1950s and celebrate Christmas and other events with the prefab families.

Rationing has ended and there are new products arriving in the shops – though when the weather is cruel, the villagers still have to find ways of ‘making do’. 

There’s love and romance for the young and not so young, worries of keeping secrets, problems and mysteries and the odd crime or two but, above all, friendship and neighbourliness. 

It was such a pleasure to head back to Broome Park Prefab Village in the company of Pat Posner. I read her previous collection of short stories and they left me with a lovely, warm cosy feeling. I felt quite nostalgic for a time that I never even knew!
This second collection of stories is just as good, and it was a delight to catch up with the residents of Broome Park and be reunited with old friends, while meeting new ones. These stories are all feel-good, with characters you really want to spend time with. Happy endings are guaranteed, and in a world that can sometimes feel harsh and cruel (and a little bit scary!) it’s a relief to be in a place where you just know everything will turn out okay, where family values still matter, and a good nature and kind heart count for a lot.
My favourite stories were Wrong Number, and Sam and Flo’s First Christmas Together, which were unashamedly romantic and sweet, but all the stories were a joy to read.
If you want to be transported to a time and a place of goodness and innocence, then this is the book for you. Settle back with a cuppa and enjoy!