Callie’s Christmas Wish by Jessica Redland

Christmas is approaching and love is in the air at Bay View Care Home. Supervising carer, Callie Derbyshire, is blissfully happy with new boyfriend, Rhys. The tree’s up, the lights are twinkling, and, with the Christmas Eve wedding of one of the residents, Iris, to look forward to, everything is perfect.

Well, almost. 

Rhys’s ex has him at her beck and call, yet refuses to let Callie meet their baby daughter. Callie’s ex is intent on stirring up trouble. And Callie’s favourite resident, Rhys’s nanna, Ruby, hasn’t been her usual self since Iris announced her engagement.

Convinced that Ruby’s lonely, especially after discovering the truth about her lost love, Callie’s determined to give Ruby’s romantic story the happy ending it deserves. Ruby might be adamant that the past should be left in the past. But, when it comes to true love, surely a little well-meaning meddling and a Christmas wish or two can’t do any harm. After all, it’s never to late to let love in again. Or is it?

A heartwarming Christmas story of finding new love, and the courage to revisit a love that was lost long ago.

 

Callie’s Christmas Wish follows on from the Whitsborough Bay novella, Raving about Rhys, and follows the fortunes of Callie Derbyshire, a care assistant at the Bay View Care Home, and her boyfriend, the lovely Rhys.
In the novella, the couple finally got together and were all set for a happy ending. But of course, things don’t always go so smoothly, and this story shows the fallout when both partners come with emotional baggage.
Callie is still being plagued by her horrendous ex, Tony, and poor Rhys is at the beck and call of the mother of his daughter, who rings him at all hours to tell him she needs him NOW, causing Rhys to drop everything and rush off to help. Callie wouldn’t mind if the calls were genuine, but Rhys’s ex-girlfriend is the woman who cried wolf, and she seems determined to ensure that Callie and Rhys don’t get a moment together.
At Bay View, meanwhile, Callie is kept busy helping with wedding preparations for resident Iris and her fiance, who are tying the knot on Christmas Eve. Iris’s best friend, Ruby, seems surprisingly subdued about the wedding plans, and Callie discovers a secret that Ruby has nursed for a great many years – a secret that also affects Rhys, since Ruby is his grandmother.
Callie, being the kind-hearted and romantic soul that she is, sets out to heal Ruby’s heart, despite facing opposition from Rhys, his father, and from Ruby herself.
Can she give Ruby the happy ending she deserves? And will Callie’s own Christmas wish finally come true?
Read this book and find out! It’s such a delightful, heartwarming story that you won’t be able to stop reading it once you start. Callie is a lovely character, so full of good intentions that she sometimes blunders in, but far too nice for anyone to stay cross with her. And Rhys, of course, is just as gorgeous as he was in the first book. The perfect match for Callie.
Ruby’s story is a wonderful thread, and I desperately wanted to know what her secret was and, once I discovered it, I wanted – almost as much as Callie does – for her to get her happy-ever-after.
With plot twists and subplots and a whole array of fascinating secondary characters – some nice, some not-so-nice – this is another fabulous story by the talented Jessica Redland. You know, when you pick up one of her novels, that you’re in for a treat and this one is no exception. It’s festive, but can easily be read at any time of year, so whenever you’re reading this, don’t hesitate. Sit back and enjoy another outing to wonderful Whitsborough Bay.

Take Me, I’m Yours by Lizzie Lamb

India Buchanan plans to set up an English-Style bed and breakfast establishment in her great-aunt’s home, MacFarlane’s Landing, Wisconsin. But she’s reckoned without opposition from Logan MacFarlane whose family once owned her aunt’s house and now want it back. MacFarlane is in no mood to be denied. His grandfather’s living on borrowed time and Logan has vowed to ensure the old man sees out his days in their former home. India’s great-aunt has other ideas and has threatened to burn the house to the ground before she lets a MacFarlane set foot in it. There’s a story here. One the family elders aren’t prepared to share. When India finds herself in Logan’s debt, her feelings towards him change. However, the past casts a long shadow and events conspire to deny them the love and happiness they both deserve. Can India and Logan’s love overcome all odds? Or is history about to repeat itself?

Another winner from Lizzie Lamb. Despite taking us away from her usual setting of Scotland, Lizzie nevertheless manages to weave her magic as she brings us this passionate story of love, land, family feuds and sizzling sexual attraction.
India Buchanan has arrived at her family home of MacFarlane’s Landing, having left her well-paid job behind to take on a new challenge. With her great-aunt ill, someone needs to protect the house from those pesky MacFarlane varmints, as they are determined to win back the property that originally belonged to them. India has plans of her own for the place, and has no intention of letting a MacFarlane anywhere near.
What she didn’t count on was meeting the powerful, gorgeous and ultra-sexy Logan MacFarlane, who is just as determined that he will win the house back for his own family.
To say sparks fly between the two of them is an understatement, and doesn’t really do justice to this story. This is a real romance novel, and with the witty repartee and verbal squash game going on between the two main characters, it did remind me rather of an old Cary Grant/Katherine Hepburn movie – but with a lot more passion.
The sexual tension between India and Logan is palpable, and I was just longing for them to admit how they felt about each other.
With a setting that’s beautifully described, a great supporting cast, and a genuine conflict at the heart of the story, this is far more than just a will-they-won’t-they novel.
I was worried I would miss Scotland, but Lizzie has proved herself capable of taking her readers anywhere she wants them to go. I won’t worry again. Set your next novel wherever you like, Ms Lamb. I’ll happily go along for the ride!

The Haunting on West 10th Street by Helen Phifer

Skeptical NYPD Homicide Detective Maria Miller only believes in cold hard facts. But a gruesome murder at a Greenwich Village brownstone seems to point straight to a paranormal source. Determined to unearth a rational explanation, she vows to find the culprit before he strikes again…

But Maria is about to learn that this atrocious crime is far from unique. An identical slaughter rocked the same house decades ago, and Miller must determine if it’s the same culprit, a copycat, or something much darker…

When Miller becomes the killer’s next target, will her stubborn cynicism save her or send her to the other side?

The Haunting On West 10th Street is the first book in the chilling Ghosts of New York horror series. If you like terrifying tales, supernatural crime stories, and eerie mysteries that span decades, then you’ll love Helen Phifer’s nail-biting novel. 

 

 

I always enjoyed Helen Phifer’s creepy supernatural thrillers, and although I’ve also loved her recent “straight” crime books, it was good to see her return to her roots with The House on West 10th Street.
No one knows how to scare me like Helen, and this story proved it. Something evil is lurking in the attic of the New York brownstone on West 10th, and it’s up to Detective Maria Miller to find out what it is and, more importantly, how to stop it before it’s too late.
Whatever it is has killed before, in the most gruesome way, and the author deftly switches between the events of its original possession, and the threat that hangs over the present day.
Detective Miller is a worthy successor to Helen Phifer’s previous lead characters, and the setting is perfectly drawn, giving the reader a real sense of New York. I was going to say I could almost smell the city, but truthfully, I wouldn’t want to. Read the book and you’ll know what I mean!
I really hope there is a follow-up to this book. I love Helen’s north-of-England novels, but she really does seem just as at home on the streets of New York, and this setting and these characters are ripe for a sequel – or a whole series of them.

Summer at Willow Tree Farm by Heidi Rice

Is home always where the heart is?
When Ellie spent a summer with her mum on a Wiltshire commune in the 90s it was a bigger disaster than Leo DiCaprio’s trip aboard the Titanic – so fleeing to America seemed a perfect plan.
But now, with her marriage falling apart, running back to her mum seems like the only option for her and her son Josh.
She wasn’t expecting Art, the boy she once had a crush on to still be working at Willow Tree Farm…And still be as hot and bothersome as he was when they were teenagers.
Ellie came to Willow Tree Farm for a fresh start. But is she ready to risk sailing her life – and her heart – into another iceberg?

 

 

I bought this on impulse when I saw it in a supermarket. I was about to go on holiday and it seemed like the perfect read, although I’d never read anything by Heidi Rice before.

Well, I have to say, I was hooked! This story absolutely sizzles with passion. The simmering sexual tension between Ellie and Art practically scorches the pages. And Art is seriously hot …

This is the story of two people who met many years before and had a rather uncomfortable relationship, and that’s putting it mildly. Ellie developed a crush on Art. Art was mean to her. Ellie moved away from Willow Tree Farm and never saw or heard from him again. Until now. Separated from her husband, she’s returned to the farm along with her son, Josh, to visit her mother, and a whole lot of memories are being stirred up, along with a most unwelcome lust for her former crush.

Art is the strong, silent type. He doesn’t say a lot, and whatever is going on in his head he keeps it well hidden away. He’s done a lot of growing up since Ellie left, becoming a father himself. Being dad to a young daughter, Toto, is proving tricky. He’s devoted to her, but doesn’t always have the best handle on parenting. He gives Toto a lot of freedom, which leads to more clashes with Ellie, whose parenting style is the opposite of his. As Josh and Toto strike up a friendship, this leads to some difficult scenarios to negotiate, and brings the two into ever closer contact.

As Ellie strives to rebuild her relationship with her mother, she throws herself into life at Willow Tree Farm, and battles to keep her growing desire for Art at bay. But it soon becomes obvious that his desires for her are just as great. The problem is, they have such a troubled history, and don’t even seem to like each other, so their mutual attraction is inconvenient, to say the least.

As the summer goes on, Ellie and Art face up to some unpleasant truths about their respective pasts, their present-day situation, and the realities of their relationship. There’s a whole lot more at stake than their pride, but do they have the courage to do what’s necessary to save the place they love and secure a future for everyone at Willow Tree Farm?

The setting for this book was just gorgeous. Willow Tree Farm is so beautifully described, and there’s a lot of sensual description in the novel that puts the reader right there with the characters. I loved all the characters, and found them well-drawn and believable. Josh and Toto were just adorable.

The relationship between Art and Ellie is pure passion, and throughout the book I was absolutely aching for them to finally get it together. I notice some reviewers feel that the book has too much action in the bedroom. Well, it certainly has some racy scenes, but it’s not exactly erotica. The love scenes are very much part of the story and essential to the characters’ overall development, so I have no problem with that at all. Plus, it’s well-written and, by the time I got to that part of the book, I was just so relieved that it finally happened!

Overall, I absolutely loved this book, and will definitely be reading more novels by this author. 5/5 from me.

You can buy Summer at Willow Tree Farm here.

The Little Cottage on the Hill by Emma Davies

There’s blossom in the trees and daffodils as far as the eye can see. Maddie is looking forward to a fresh start in the countryside, but there’s just one little problem…

Following a scandal at her high-flying PR agency, twenty-six-year-old Maddie flees London to help promote what she thinks is going to be a luxurious holiday retreat in the countryside. Everything is riding on her making a success of this new job…

Yet when she arrives, Maddie is horrified to find a rundown old farm in a terrible state. The brooding and secretive owner, Seth, spent all his money on leasing the land when he fell in love with the beautiful, dishevelled farm cottages and the very romantic story behind them.

When Maddie discovers an old oil painting by the original owner’s wife, she unlocks the secret of the farm’s history and quickly realises she must start getting her hands dirty if this very special place is going to have any chance of survival. As she and Seth begin working together, the stunning view from the top of the hill is not the only thing that’s leaving her breathless…

After weeks of hard work the dream looks like it might become a reality, until a secret from Maddie’s past threatens to snatch it all away again. Can Maddie find a way to save the business and herself? Will she finally find a place to keep her heart within the crumbling walls of the little cottage on the hill?

This is the first book by Emma Davies that I’ve read, and I must say I thoroughly enjoyed it. Emma manages to create a beautiful setting for her novel, with such vivid descriptions that you feel as if you’re actually there with her characters. Joy’s Acre comes to life under the deft touch of the author, and I totally fell in love with the farm, complete with cottages, farmhouse and gardens.

I quickly became absorbed in the story, intrigued by Maddie and what, exactly, someone like her was doing in a place like that. I wondered how she would fit in, how her ideas could ever be reconciled with those of the owner of Joy’s Acre, Seth. It seemed that, from their very first meeting, they were destined to disagree, to clash swords over the future of the farm. I needn’t have wondered, because Emma Davies handles the storyline perfectly, pacing it beautifully and carefully edging Seth and Maddie towards common ground, an understanding of each other’s viewpoint, and onto so much more.

The characters were appealing – even if Seth did come across as pretty unforgiving and unapproachable at first. As layers of his personality were revealed, bit by bit, I grew to like him very much. I may even have developed a bit of a crush on him, actually.

Every single character in the book is interesting and likeable – with the possible exception of Agatha, although even she has her reasons for her behaviour. I was intrigued by Tom the thatcher. He clearly has issues and I’m wondering what the author has in store for him. Maddie is a likeable heroine, and Trixie and Clara are the sort of women you’d want to be friends with. The whole set-up at the farm, with the five adults working together to create something absolutely magical, was most enjoyable and made for a delightful read.

I’m happy to see that there is a forthcoming sequel to this novel, and I’ve already pre-ordered it, so that says a lot.

Overall, it’s definitely a winner, and I’m happy to give it five stars.

You can buy The Little Cottage on the Hill here.

That Summer at the Seahorse Hotel by Adrienne Vaughan

Mia Flanagan has never been told who her father is and aged ten, stopped asking.

Haunted by this, she remains a dutiful daughter who would never do anything to bring scandal or shame on her beautiful and famously single mother.

So when Archie Fitzgerald, one of Hollywood’s favourite actors, decides to leave Mia his Irish estate, she asks herself – is he her father after all?

That Summer at the Seahorse Hotel is a tale of passion, jealousy and betrayal – and the ghost of a secret love that binds this colourful cast yet still threatens, after all these years, to tear each of them apart.

 

The cover sets the tone for this book. A young woman, her back to us, drifts along a beautiful beach, evoking the image of a dream, or perhaps a memory …

Memories play a huge part in this story. Something happened at The Seahorse Hotel. Something that no one involved in the event will talk about, even to each other, and certainly not to Mia. Mia knows that the people she grew up with know the truth about her father, but she has stopped asking. Instead, she contents herself with her “family”: her mother, glamorous actress, Fenella; her mother’s childhood friend, Bernice; housekeeper/friend/mystic Leela; and, above all, Archie – Fenella’s dear friend, actor, playwright, brother to Bernice, and all-round gorgeous human being. Rumour has it that Archie might – just might – be her father. Mia has often wondered herself, and when she discovers that Archie plans to leave her his estate in his will, she has even more cause to ponder on the truth about her parentage.

Galty House, codename The Seahorse Hotel, is Archie’s beloved home on the Irish coast. A safe haven from the world, no one ever says goodbye there, because they all know they will see each other again. But Archie’s time is running out – a sad fact that brings the Galty House family together again. Fenella is desperate to know that Archie won’t break his promise to her, and reveal her secrets to her daughter. Bernice is desperate to know the contents of her brother’s will. The Seahorse Hotel is her home, and she has no intention of handing it over to anyone else – even the young woman she has loved, almost like a daughter, since the day she was born.

As the family spend their days with Archie, making the most of the time they have left with him, they are joined by two newcomers to the area. American hotel owner and businessman, Ross Power, and his young niece, Pearl, find themselves drawn to the flamboyant and unusual people at Galty House, and their lives become entwined. Ross has business worries that are wearing him down, and Pearl is feeling insecure and unsure. Discovering Mia on the beach, she becomes convinced that her new friend is a mermaid, and the two of them form a bond. Mia can relate to the little girl who has no relationship with her father and rarely sees her mother.

The days of summer are spent as much as possible at The Seahorse Hotel, revelling in Archie’s company, sailing his grand new boat, and visiting the island that lies just off the coast – abandoned, mysterious, nursing its own secrets.

By summer’s end, there will be partings, reunions, and revelations, as The Seahorse Hotel and its occupants finally begin to let go of the past and open up to the future, with all its glorious possibilities.

I’ve loved all of Adrienne Vaughan’s books so far. She has a way of drawing you into a story, wrapping you in glorious scenery, fabulous characters, and a delicious narrative. Sometimes, it seems there are so many people you wonder how you keep track of them all, but somehow you do. With great assuredness, Adrienne Vaughan weaves her spell and leads you, like some bewitching spirit guide, through the tangled threads of her tale, making sure you are never left behind and always enticing you on, so all you can do is follow the path, desperate to see where it leads next. Much like the girl on the cover, you want to go where she goes, find out where she’s heading, what’s going to happen.

Adrienne never lets you down. The pace never slackens, the spell never fades. I loved Mia, who was a wonderful protagonist. I adored Pearl, and I absolutely one hundred per cent fell for Ross. But Archie – ah, my heart belongs to Archie. What a character! What a fabulous story.

This is, without doubt, my favourite of Adrienne’s books so far. Her  gift for storytelling just seems to get better with each one, and I’m kind of sad that I’ve finished That Summer at the Seahorse Hotel. I hope it won’t be too long before there’s another of her books to read! Just wonderful. 5/5

You can buy That Summer at the Seahorse Hotel here.

The Eliza Doll by Tracey Scott-Townsend

Ellie can’t work out whether she’s running away from the past or towards a future she always felt she should have had. She left university and had baby after baby without even meaning to. But it was her third child she blamed for ruining her life.

Now her children have grown and Ellie is on her own. She shocks everybody by selling her home and moving into a converted van to travel the country selling handmade dolls at craft fairs.

It can be lonely on the road. Ellie has two companions: her dog, Jack, and the mysterious
Eliza who turns up in the most unexpected places. At every encounter with Eliza, Ellie feels as if she’s standing again in the aching cold of a waterfall in Iceland, the sound of crashing water filling her with dread.

Ellie can’t change the past. But is it really too late to rectify the bad thing she did when Eliza was a baby?

Just … Wow! I’ve read two of Tracey Scott-Townsend’s novels – The Last Time We Saw Marion and Another Rebecca, and loved them both. This one just completely took my breath away, and I think it might well be her best yet.

It’s the story of Ellie – daughter, sister, wife, aunt, friend, and mother of five. A woman who seems to be defined by her relationships to other people. She spends her life putting their needs first, doing what’s best for them, working out what they want, keeping their secrets. Ellie’s life is all about compromise and sacrifice, and how she puts aside her own wants and needs to care for the people around her. She is, in effect, a faceless doll.

When the story opens, Ellie is living in a camper van with her dog, Jack. She is fifty years old, and the story flashes between her present-day life, her days as a young wife and mother, and her journey to Iceland with Jonah – where they are going to meet up with their third child, Eliza. Although Ellie’s life is told in a disjointed fashion, out of sequence, each scene is dated, so we know exactly where on Ellie’s timeline we are, and we’re also told whose eyes we are looking through, so it’s not difficult to follow.

Ellie becomes a mother far too young, and way before she’s ready. Her partner, Jonah, isn’t ready either. In fact, he’s even less prepared than Ellie is, and when baby Rosie arrives, he fails to adapt to parenthood. Jonah’s focus is on his music career, and he spends his days smoking cannabis, hanging out with his bandmates, working on his songs and dreaming of stardom. Always chasing that elusive record deal which is always “just around the corner”, Jonah neglects his daughter, and neglects his wife. Ellie devotes herself to her baby and tries to convince herself that things will be okay. She has little support from her own family to fall back on. Her father is a distant and rather menacing figure. Her mother is brittle and disapproving. Her sister is openly hostile and resentful, and doesn’t appear to want any kind of relationship with Ellie.

Jonah and Ellie move to a commune at Pottersea. Pottersea is a remote village on the East Yorkshire coast – sitting between the river and the sea. The location is beautifully drawn, and as someone who has visited the real life “Pottersea”, I could picture Ellie’s home and way of life so well. I haven’t been for many years, but this book made me want to go back there and look at it again with different eyes. I really loved reading about life in the commune and how Ellie and Rosie find their place there. There are lots of characters to get to know, but they are all interesting and relevant.

Ellie’s relationship with Jonah is not a good one, yet they are drawn together at intervals, rediscovering each other before drifting apart again. Unfortunately, each time they find each other again, Ellie finds herself with another baby to care for. She is horrified to discover baby number three is on the way, and tries to deny her pregnancy for many months. Before long, though, she is forced to accept it, and her life is altered. She and Jonah have to set out on a new path together, and move back to Hull where their third child is born. Eliza is a difficult little girl, and Ellie initially struggles to bond with her. Her eldest daughter, Rosie, is resentful of the attention Eliza gets, and a distance grows between Ellie and her first-born child.

Throughout the story, there’s a strong sense of something hidden from us. A kind of menacing feeling grows, and we know that we’re heading somewhere dark. Something huge has happened in Ellie’s life, and we, the readers, are led slowly down a winding path to the events that have resulted in Ellie making this strange new life for herself – giving up her home, her marriage, and spending her days in a van, making dolls to sell at markets and craft fairs.

The pace is unhurried, and the story unfolds gently, but the writing is so beautiful that the story seems to zip along just the same. There are no lulls in the narrative. No bits that I was tempted to skim over. Every sentence was precious, and I couldn’t put the book down until I finished it. When the story ended, I clutched the Kindle to me and took a deep breath. It felt as if I was emerging from deep Icelandic waters myself. But then, Tracey Scott-Townsend’s books always have that effect on me. It’s as if they take over and haunt me. This author really does have an exceptional talent, and I can’t recommend her books highly enough.

I don’t want to give anything more of the story away, so I’ll leave it there. The Eliza Doll is gripping, moving, haunting, devastating, beautiful … just read it for yourself and you’ll see.

 

You can buy The Eliza Doll here.

A Little Christmas Faith by Kathryn Freeman

Is it time to love Christmas again?
Faith Watkins loves Christmas, which is why she’s thrilled that her new hotel in the Lake District will be open in time for the festive season. And Faith has gone all out; huge Christmas tree, fairy lights, an entire family of decorative reindeer. Now all she needs are the guests … 
But what she didn’t bank on was her first paying customer being someone like Adam Hunter. Rugged, powerfully built and with a deep sadness in his eyes, Adam is a man that Faith is immediately drawn to – but unfortunately he also has an intense hatred of all things Christmassy.
As the countdown to the big day begins, Faith can’t seem to keep away from her mysterious guest, but still finds herself with more questions than answers: just what happened to Adam Hunter? And why does he hate Christmas?

I’m slowly catching up on my Christmas reading – having been too busy to read all those festive novels before the big day. I may even have read them all by Easter, who knows? Anyway, this week it was the turn of A Little Christmas Faith, a book with a gorgeous cover that really made me want to investigate further. I’m very glad I did, because I really enjoyed this novel.

Faith is a big fan of Christmas, and her new hotel in the Lake District is practically Christmas Hotel. She’s decorated it to within an inch of its life, and she’s looking forward to sharing the big day with her loving family – her very supportive mum and dad, her two sisters, Hope and Charity (yes, really!) and their husbands, and her beautiful baby nephew, as well as teenage niece, Chloe.

Chloe has been roped in to help out at the hotel in the run-up to Christmas, as her mum is worried about her recent attitude and hopes that a bit of hard work will sort her daughter out. Unfortunately, Chloe’s attitude continues to cause problems for Faith, as she is hardly the most welcoming face on the reception desk, and she makes a very bad impression on the hotel’s first paying guest, Adam Hunter.

Adam is the opposite to Faith. He hates Christmas and is determined to spend it alone. No big, happy family for Adam. Just a hotel room and some solitude. He is appalled by the over-the-top decorating scheme at the hotel, and seems fixed on ignoring the festive period entirely, his entire focus being on keeping fit at the gym. Sadly, even the hotel gym fails to please him, and he is forced to go further afield to continue his training.

Despite their obvious differences, there is a huge attraction between Adam and Faith. Sparks positively fly whenever they are together. But Adam is only staying until just after Christmas, so Faith can’t risk getting involved with him. And Adam is so solitary it’s a wonder he’s not wearing a big “Keep Off” sign around his neck.

Against all odds, Faith and Adam are drawn together, and, much to their own surprise, find they are falling for each other. But Adam is clearly carrying a huge burden, and he is unwilling to share it with Faith. His past – shrouded in mystery – is ruining his present, and threatening his future. Faith, it seems, has no choice but to accept their relationship for what it is – strictly temporary. Christmas will soon be over, and so will her relationship with Adam.

Or maybe the two of them just need a little Christmas faith …

This is a lovely festive story. There’s lots of sizzling passion between Adam and Faith, a beautiful setting, a gorgeous hotel, plenty of romance and some mystery, too. The secondary characters are well-drawn. I particularly loved the storyline about Chloe, and really took to the troubled teen.

Christmas may be over for another year, but I’d still recommend this book to give you a much-needed shot of festive cheer. Just the thing to help you cope with a dismal January!

You can buy A Little Christmas Faith here.

Christmas at the Little Village School by Jane Lovering

A teacher’s life is never easy … especially at Christmas!
Working at a tiny village school in rural Yorkshire has its own unique set of challenges – but when teachers Lydia Knight and Jake Immingham are tasked with getting the children to put on a Christmas play for the local elderly people’s home, they know they’re in for a tricky term! 

But in between choreographing sugar plum dance routines, reindeer costume malfunctions and trying to contain Rory Scott’s wannabe rap star aspirations, Lydia realises that, even as a teacher, she isn’t past being taught a couple of things – and one of those things is a much-needed lesson in Christmas spirit. 

 

 

I always enjoy Jane Lovering’s books, and this was no exception. The setting is just gorgeous – a North Yorkshire rural village, deep in snow as Christmas approaches. Perfection.

The story centres around a little school – the clue’s in the title, I suppose! Lydia is a teacher at the school, and she’s charged with putting on a Christmas play to entertain the residents of the local nursing home. Luckily, she has fellow teacher, new arrival Jake, to help her. Or is that, unluckily? Because Lydia is quite smitten with Jake, and that’s bad news for her, since she doesn’t date men. Or make friends with them, come to that. Or even make civilised conversation, most of the time. Men are strictly out of bounds, because Lydia has a self-defence system that ensures they keep well away from her. Except, it doesn’t seem to be working on Jake. He just keeps coming back for more. He’s clearly determined that the two of them will work well together and will be friends. For confused Lydia, that’s what she wants more than anything, and also what she wants least of all.

I really enjoyed the way we only discovered the reason for Lydia’s behaviour halfway through the book. By that time, I’d already got to know her and care about her, and maybe (shamefully) I’d have had a different view of her if I’d realised at the beginning. As it was, by the time her reasons were revealed, I was totally with Jake, and felt pretty much as he did. I don’t want to say any more about that, because I don’t want to give away the twist.

As always with Jane’s books, there’s lots of humour, and I loved the classroom stuff, with the preparations for the play, and the “telling it like it is”, and the fun of the dodgy costumes and wangling for more lines – and that’s just Jake.

This is a fairly short book, easy to read, and a real treat that you can devour quicker than a box of Christmas chocolates – unless you’re like me, in which case you could probably eat the chocolates much faster. But at least there are no calories in this, and it will leave you feeling all happy and festive and contented, whereas the chocolates will just leave you feeling guilty and probably a little bit nauseous. So ditch the chocs and buy this fabulous little book instead. It’s another winner from Jane.  5/5

You can buy Christmas at the Little Village School here.

Lies, Mistakes and Misunderstandings (A Vintage Mystery) by Katharine Johnson

It’s 1931. 

Nothing much has gone right for Jack since he graduated last year. His career has failed to take off, his fiancée has ditched him for someone with better prospects and now he’s received an invitation to their wedding. He dreads going to the wedding alone, surrounded by his high-achieving friends, so when he meets a beautiful girl who offers to accompany him he jumps at the chance. 

But by accepting her invitation he finds himself drawn into a world of intrigue and murder.

 

I bought this book after hearing from a friend how much she was enjoying it. I duly downloaded (or is it uploaded?) it to my Kindle and decided I’d read the first couple of chapters before bed.

Fast forward to half past three in the morning, and I finally switched off the Kindle, having finished the entire book. I couldn’t put it down. No matter how tired I got, I had to keep reading, because this book had me intrigued from the start.

I have to say, I think the cover and title don’t really do the book justice. If I hadn’t trusted the word of my friend, I wouldn’t have been drawn to this novel at all, but I’m so glad I found it. I absolutely loved the style of writing. It was similar, in some ways, to a Daphne du Maurier novel. As I read it, I was never quite sure who was telling the truth, whose version of events was correct, who to believe …

The protagonist, Jack, meets Giselle on a train, and his entire life changes. But who is Giselle? What does she want? Where did she come from and where is she going? As his life becomes unexpectedly entangled with hers, an obsession begins that will endure through the years, affecting his other relationships,  leading him into danger, and driving him to despair and distraction.

The mystery of Giselle drives him on, possessing his mind as he tries to put the past behind him and make a new life for himself. Her shadow is constantly hanging over him, as he tries to discover the truth about her. But who can he believe? Does anyone really know who this woman truly is?

I was completely gripped by this story, desperate to uncover the secret of Giselle and find out how Jack’s life would turn out. There were so many twists and turns that I was never quite sure where we were heading, and I had no idea what to expect, which was quite thrilling. There are layers galore to peel away, and some shocks and surprises lurking beneath, which send the story in a completely new direction and ensures you just can’t stop reading until the tale is told.

I really hope this book gets the audience it deserves, because I truly think it’s quite amazing. I look forward to reading more from this author. 5/5

You can buy Lies, Mistakes and Misunderstandings here.