Bear With Me by Jessica Redland

Sometimes love finds us when we least expect it. But sometimes love leaves us, just as unexpectedly.

Everything changes for Jemma on the weekend of her 28th birthday. An unexpected proposal from boyfriend, Scott, is overshadowed by her mum’s diagnosis with a life-changing condition. After the weekend, she needs Scott’s support more than ever. So why isn’t he returning her calls?

Everything was meant to be changing for Sam that same weekend. He should have been walking down the aisle with Nikki. But she’s not around anymore and Sam’s struggling to face the future. Did he do the right thing by moving to London to escape the memories of their life together?

When they’ve loved and lost, can they bear to let love in again?

Bear With Me, and all will be revealed …

Bear With Me takes us back to the familiar setting of Whitsborough Bay – the location of Jessica Redland’s previous books. However, this time, we meet a whole host of new characters.

Jemma thinks she’s found her happy-ever-after with Scott, but just days after receiving a proposal of marriage from him, something changes. Why isn’t he answering her calls?

Julie has been a wonderful single mother to Jemma and Sean, but lately she’s been behaving strangely, and her happy home, Bear’s Pad, is becoming a place of tension. What’s happening to her?

Sam’s future looked bright. He had a promising career and he’d found the woman of his dreams. Now he’s in a strange city, far from everyone he loves, and his life is in tatters. What went wrong?

This is a gorgeous story of love, faith, and new beginnings. Told with the author’s characteristic warmth and humour, it drew me in from the first few pages, as I got to know the main characters at crucial points in their lives. As the novel progressed, I found myself enthralled by the twists and turns in their stories – and boy, there were plenty of them! The author really puts her poor protagonists through the mill.

After suffering so badly, it’s not surprising that Sam and Jemma find they have lots in common, and can understand what the other has been through, and before long a warm friendship blossoms, but Jessica Redland shows how emotional wounds can make moving on a real challenge, and explores the courage it takes to let go of the past and start again.

There is a lovely supporting cast in this novel, including some walk-on parts by characters from the author’s Whitsborough Bay trilogy, which will delight fans of those books. The writer’s gift for creating appealing and relatable characters will, I’m certain, win her a whole host of new fans.

Bear With Me is a real page-turner that made me desperate to find out what would happen next, yet reluctant to reach the end and leave Sam and Jemma behind. Funny, intriguing and thought-provoking, Bear With Me is a genuine five-star book, and I’m eager to find out what’s next from Jessica Redland. 5/5

You can buy Bear With Me here.

Di Marcello’s Secret Son by Rachael Thomas

The challenge: to leave your billionaire lifestyle behind for two weeks…

Italian tycoon Antonio Di Marcello relishes the challenge—but running into Sadie Parker while working undercover as a mechanic rocks him to the core. Four years after their fevered fling stripped away his iron guard, he’s confronted with the shocking consequences…

Sadie has given up hope in her desperate attempts to contact Antonio. Now she has to face the day she’s both dreaded and longed for! And Antonio’s claim over her and her son is hard to resist—especially as he’ll use a sensual onslaught to get what he wants!

 

Rachael Thomas does it again! Sunshine, sizzling passion, and simmering sexual tension abound in this latest novel. Antonio Di Marcello is a real alpha male – the epitome of a rich playboy, with the billionaire lifestyle, gorgeous Italian looks, and a reputation as a real womaniser.

His first marriage to Eloisa has failed catastrophically, and as far as the press are concerned, that’s entirely down to him. His cheating ways are well documented. It seems Antonio has no heart, and no ability to love or be faithful.

Sadie is all too aware of that fact. A tempestuous weekend with Antonio took her to the heights of happiness, but she quickly crashed down to earth when Antonio abandoned her, informing her that he was to be married and telling her coldly that he can offer her nothing more. Finding herself pregnant, Sadie went to his family home to tell him of his unborn child, but was cruelly turned away by Antonio’s mother. Antonio ignored her pleading letter, and clearly wanted nothing to do with her or the baby. For three years now, Sadie has been a single parent, caring for her beloved little boy, Leo, and trying desperately to put the memory of Antonio’s cruel betrayal behind her.

When he crashes back into her life in the most unexpected way, Sadie is in turmoil. No matter what he did to her, how can she resist those dark eyes – eyes which are so like their son’s? How can she hide the passion he still ignites in her? Yet, when it becomes clear that Antonio has deceived her yet again, and that he has a very clear motive for wanting her back in his life, she knows she must hide her true feelings at all costs.

For how could a man like Antonio ever bring her happiness, when he is incapable of love?

Taking the reader on a whirlwind journey through Rome, a Caribbean island, London, and an English country estate, Rachael Thomas creates a page-turning story of a cat-and-mouse game where the stakes are high for everyone involved. Can Antonio be the father he always wanted to be? Can he be the husband Sadie deserves? Or will his cold upbringing bring nothing but disaster for his new wife and child? Read it and find out! You won’t be disappointed. 5/5

You can buy Di Marcello’s Secret Son here.

The Lost Children by Helen Phifer

After a previous case ended in a tragic double murder, Detective Lucy Harwin, has been on enforced absence from the force. But when the body of an elderly man is discovered in an abandoned hospital, she is plunged straight back into a case that will test her to breaking point.

For decades, The Moore housed the forgotten children of Northern coastal town, Brooklyn Bay. But ever since a scandal forced its closure, the abandoned building has been left untouched.

Together with her partner, Detective Mattie Jackson, Lucy begins to unearth its terrible history, and soon finds herself on the trail of a killer ruthlessly fixated on avenging the crimes of the past.

As Lucy begins to close in on the killer, a woman is found murdered on her own doorstep. With the attacks escalating, and those closest to her now a target, can Lucy protect them and herself before it’s too late?

 

This is a really gripping story of revenge and murder, and I think it’s possibly my favourite of Helen Phifer’s books so far. It definitely pulled me in from the first page, and the action never stops. A really grisly murder in an old asylum – how can it not hold your attention and make your heart beat just that little bit faster?
I’m a fan of this author’s Annie Graham books, so I wondered if Lucy Harwin would appeal as much. She did. I could relate to the overworked detective, whose husband had walked out on her for another woman, and whose daughter, Ellie, is struggling with issues around their separation, her mother’s obsession with her job, coping with a new family, and all the other teenage angst that girls of her age have to deal with. Lucy is battling the inevitable guilt over Ellie, sadness over losing her husband, and the aftermath of events in her professional past, which have led to her being ordered to undergo counselling.
When the first murder occurs, it puts added pressure on Lucy’s and Ellie’s relationship, as, before long, Lucy is in the grip of an all-consuming police investigation, involving an old asylum, the people who once worked there, and the patients they “treated” – the lost children. As the body count rises, Lucy and her sidekick, Mattie, find themselves in a race against time. Someone is out for revenge, and the killer is showing no mercy.
My thoughts on who this killer could be changed throughout the course of the novel. It wasn’t until I nearly reached the end of the book that I realised who it was. I’d been led down another path very cleverly by the author.
This is, I believe, the first in a new series of Lucy Harwin novels, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing where the character goes next. Helen Phifer is a gifted storyteller, and I’m half dreading what poor Lucy will have to cope with next. Loved the Stephen King character, by the way! Lovely touch. 5/5

You can buy The Lost Children here.

The 20’s Girl, the Ghost, and All That Jazz by June Kearns

1924. The English Shires, after the Great War.
When her jazzing flapper of an aunt dies, Gerardina Mary Chiledexter inherits some silver-topped scent bottles, a wardrobe of love-affair clothes, and astonishingly, a half-share in a million-acre ranch in south-west Texas.
Haunted by a psychic cat and the ghost voice of that aunt Leonie, Gerry feels driven to travel thousands of miles to see the ranch for herself.
Against a background of big sky, cattle barons and oil wells, she is soon engaged in a game of power, pride and ultimately, love, with the Texan who owns the other half.

I have absolutely no idea why it’s taken me so long to get round to reading this book. I think I’ve had it on my Kindle since publication day, and I also have the beautiful shiny paperback, too. No excuses. Somehow, time slipped away from me and the book remained unread. Until yesterday, when I switched on my Kindle, scrolled through the long (very long) list of books on the device, saw the pretty cover of this novel and tapped on the image. I began reading and…Wow!

It’s quite a long novel, but I read it in two straight sittings over two consecutive days. I would have devoured it in one day, if it wasn’t the inconvenience of having a pesky day job. Yes, it was that good.

It’s the story of Gerardina Chiledexter – Gerry to her friends. Gerry was the product of two rather selfish, uncaring parents, and spent her childhood being passed around from one reluctant relative to another, until good fortune landed her on the doorstep of her mother’s sister, Leonie. Leonie was unlike anyone Gerry has ever known – beautiful, elegant, and huge fun. More than that, she made Gerry feel welcome, wanted, loved. After Leonie’s death, Gerry is struggling. She misses her aunt. She misses that sense of belonging. And she’s drowning in debt, because, the one thing that Leonie wasn’t, was good with money. Leonie lived for the day, and she didn’t put finances in place to pay her bills, leaving Gerry with a huge headache. She’s running her aunt’s bookshop and it’s in massive danger of closing. She owes money to just about everyone, the building is falling down around her ears, and no one seems particularly interested in buying books. It seems her only option may be to accept the desperate proposal of Archie, in spite of his parents’ very obvious disapproval and muttered objections.

Then, unexpectedly, Gerry is thrown a lifeline. Out of the blue, she discovers that – as Leonie’s only heir – she has been left half of a ranch in Texas, by a man she has never met, but who intended to leave it to her aunt. She is given this news by the owner of the other half. His name is Coop, and he’s not too happy about discovering that the land he thought was all his is now shared with this odd, stubborn, Englishwoman, with a very weird dress sense.

Events – and a ghostly presence – conspire to send Gerry over to Texas, where she is determined to take a good look around the ranch for herself, before agreeing to Coop’s request – or should that be order? – that she sell her half to him. Texas is an alien world, and Gerry struggles to fit in. Coop doesn’t seem keen to help her adapt, and neither does anyone else in that hostile territory, particularly the feral Scoot, and the high-and-mighty Hallie-Lee.  Gerry truly believed she was going to America at the wishes of her deceased aunt. At times, she feels Leonie’s presence so strongly that she can actually hear her aunt’s voice in her ear, smell her perfume, hear the swish of her dress across the floor. At other times, she feels abandoned and alone. Has she made a dreadful mistake in travelling so far away from home?

After spending several awkward and uncomfortable months on the ranch, Gerry makes some discoveries about her business partner, and comes to a decision that is guaranteed to stir up trouble back in England – something which is quickly confirmed on her return. Hurt, bewildered, and absolutely broke, it seems Gerry’s troubles will never be over. But was Leonie’s guidance really just a product of her over-active imagination, or is  her aunt still trying to give her niece the happy ending she deserves?

This book is so beautifully written. The descriptions are perfection. With a few deft lines, June Kearns transports the reader to the dusty plains of Texas, and lets you feel the scorching heat on your back, before taking you back to England, where the cosy, damp, cricket-and-afternoon-tea environment comes alive within a paragraph or two of clever prose.

The characterisations are excellent. Coop is an enigmatic, alpha male, with a brooding presence and hidden depths. I absolutely adored Gerry, with her can-do attitude, and her determination to carry on without complaining, in spite of some pretty appalling treatment by far too many people. I loved the stoic Prim, the kindly Doc, the wildcat Scoot and poor, dear Archie – he of the hideously awful parents and the dark, desperate secret.

I loved the way England was contrasted with Texas, and against all my expectations, I enjoyed the American segment of the book as much as the English ones. The addition of the ghostly presence of the wonderful Leonie was a touch of genius, and as for the quotes at the beginning of each chapter – priceless! For instance, “Women approaching thirty may have lost all chance of inspiring affection.” (Advice to Miss-All-Alone, 1924), and “Try not to have ‘opinions’. Rather, learn to cook a decent dinner.” (How to Attract a Man, 1923). The book beautifully illustrates a serious point, however, which is that in the 1920s, thanks to the First World War and the ‘flu epidemic, men of a marriageable age were in very short supply, and there were many, many women who faced a lifetime of spinsterhood – not half as much fun in those days as it is now! So I could really feel for Gerry, who, fast approaching thirty, had given up all expectation of marriage, and was therefore even more desperate to earn a reasonable living. I could quite understand that she would consider accepting Archie’s proposal, even though she knows that marriage to him could never make her happy.

Like An Englishwoman’s Guide to the Cowboy, June’s previous novel, this book contrasts a young Englishwoman, her lifestyle and manners, with a hunky American male, used to behaving in a very different manner to the gentlemen the heroine usually meets, and she does it with love, humour and understanding. I loved her first book, and I actually think this one is even better.  I’m sort of sorry I left it so long, but then again, I’m glad to have had the pleasure of Coop’s and Gerry’s company this last couple of days. An excellent book. I really hope there’s a new one from this author very soon. 5/5

You can buy The 20’s Girl, The Ghost, and All That Jazz here.

The Saturday Secret by Linda Huber

This world sometimes feels like a very harsh place to be, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by how much anger and general nastiness there seems to be out there. It’s good, therefore, to escape to a place where happy endings are guaranteed. Sometimes, you just need to pick up a book and lose yourself in a story that makes you feel warm, happy, and optimistic again.

The Saturday Secret is such a book – packed with short stories that are pure feel-good entertainment.  It’s extremely easy to read, and although I planned to just read one or two stories at a time I actually read it in two halves. The first half was read some weeks ago and then, thanks to real life intruding, I had to sacrifice reading time for a while. I picked up the book again today – call it my Mother’s Day treat! It was lovely to slip back into that cosy world, and find that the second half was just as good as the first.

The stories are delightful, featuring children, babies, elderly people, kittens, dogs, loving couples, affectionate families and lots more besides.

My personal favourites were We’re Having a Baby! The Cat’s Whiskers,  After Rebecca, and the short – but incredibly poignant – Corrina’s Big Day.  The short story that gives the book its title also made me smile. I won’t give away what The Saturday Secret actually is, but let’s just say it gave me hope. 🙂

A really gorgeous collection of short stories by a writer who clearly has a gift for capturing those precious moments in a person’s life and weaving a wonderful tale around them.  I thoroughly enjoyed it and highly recommend it to those looking for an escape route into a happy place!   5/5

You can buy The Saturday Secret here, and, as an added bonus, profits from this lovely book are being donated to Doctors Without Borders.

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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.