Second Chances at Channel View Farm by Jo Bartlett

This is the follow-up to Jo Bartlett’s Give Me Your Answer Do, although it can be read as a stand-alone. In this story, we follow Olivia, who is the best friend of Ellie, the heroine of GMYAD, as she returns from Australia and takes up residence with Ellie at Channel View Farm. Olivia has spent the last few years putting her life on hold, while she waits for an impossible love. Having finally realised that she deserves better, she’s packed her bags and returned to England to begin again. Channel View Farm is the perfect place to rebuild her life. Set on a cliff top overlooking the sea, it’s beautiful and welcoming. Ellie is more like a sister to Olivia, and she and her mother, Karen, provide Olivia with the comfort and support she needs.
Olivia is determined to give Ellie the perfect wedding. As chief bridesmaid, she wants her friend to have the perfect day – the sort of day that wedding host Ellie goes all out to provide for other brides at Channel View Farm. In the course of her efforts, she’s thrown together with groom-to-be Ben’s best man, Seth, a fellow with a bit of a reputation as someone who just can’t settle down. That suits Olivia fine, since she’s definitely not looking for anyone to replace her ex. But at Channel View Farm, love has a way of sneaking up on people. Seth and Olivia have much in common, and there is a definite attraction between them. With Seth having secured the job of a lifetime, working abroad, and Olivia finally settled back in England in her dream job, there seems no way that the two of them can make things work without one of them making a huge sacrifice and taking a leap of faith. Is their love strong enough, after all? Another lovely story by Jo Bartlett, with lots of twists and turns and some great characterisation, as always. The setting for the book is so lovely and so well-described I could almost smell the sea air. I really enjoyed it, and I love the pretty, summery cover. A real treat. 5/5

You can buy Second Chances at Channel View Farm 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.

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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A Holly Bay Christmas by Jo Bartlett

Jo Bartlett certainly knows how to tell a good Christmas story. A year or two ago, I read and reviewed her lovely novella, The Gift of Christmas Yet to Come (which, by the way, is being reissued by Accent Press with an absolutely gorgeous new cover) and I thought then that she really knew how to fill her readers with Christmas spirit. A Holly Bay Christmas, is, I’m delighted to report, just as enjoyable, and just as festive.
Holly Bay is an absolutely charming little village nestling on the Cornish coast. It’s full of those delightful little shops and businesses that you find in Cornwall, and it’s populated by a community of people who really pull together and care for each other.
Maddie’s entire world revolves around her bookshop/teashop, Basil’s Adventures, which is named after her beloved grandfather. He was the biggest influence upon her life, teaching her the wonders and delights of reading, and how to escape into the magic of a book. Although he rarely travelled outside the town, he had a whole lifetime of adventures in his imagination, and so, when he died and left Maddie an inheritance, she used it to fulfil her dream of opening her own business, naming it after him. She is devoted to her work, has a cosy flat in Holly Bay, and plenty of friends. She can’t help wondering, though, if it’s time she gave some thought to finding romance. Not that there seems much chance of that, when she’s so busy, particularly now that it’s almost Christmas and Holly Bay is a hive of activity.
So when the attractive and friendly Ben Cartwright arrives in town, it seems like fate. Ben seems very interested in her, in her business, and in her friends. Could he be the man of her dreams?
When he helps out with raising funds for a charity that is close to her heart, and even dons an elf costume to help out, she begins to think that, just maybe, he actually might be just that. But dreams don’t always come true, and secrets have a habit of being discovered, often at the most inconvenient times. What is Ben really doing in Holly Bay?
As a storm sweeps in, bringing destruction in its path, the residents of this little town must work together to help each other, and to make one little boy’s Christmas dreams come true. The key to it all is Ben, but can he be trusted? Is Maddie about to lose everything she holds dear, or is it going to be a happy Holly Bay Christmas, after all?
A heartwarming, cosy festive story that will really put you in the mood for the festive season. Merry Christmas! 5/5

You can buy A Holly Bay Christmas here.

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The Chocolatier’s Secret by Helen J Rolfe

“Andrew Bennett has an idyllic life in Magnolia Creek, Australia. He runs a chocolate business he adores, is married to Gemma, the love of his life, and has a close relationship with his father, Louis. But when Andrew receives a message from his high school sweetheart, it sends his world into a spiral, and the relationships he holds dear will never be the same again.

Molly Ramsey is looking for answers. After her last attempt, she believes the only way to get them this time is to face her past head-on. But to do this, she has to fly to the other side of the world – and she’s afraid of flying. Her search for answers lands her in an emotional tangle, not only with her past but also with a man very much in her present.

Family is everything to Gemma Bennett and she longs to have a house full of kids, but it just isn’t happening. And when Andrew’s past makes an explosive impact on the family, Gemma must decide whether she can accept the truth and open her heart in a way she never thought possible.

In this story of love, family ties and forgiveness, will past mistakes be the obstacle to a Happy Ever After?”

It’s sometimes difficult to review books without resorting to cliches. It’s a bit like a TV talent show. You know, “You made that song your own” – *rolls eyes*. How many times can you hear the same thing coming from the judges’ mouths without getting bored? Similarly, how many times can you write, “I absolutely loved this book” without feeling that you really need to say something different? Something exciting. Something that can convey the joy you’ve felt, immersing yourself in someone else’s writing, getting lost in their fabulous fictional world. Something that would entice other people to pick up the book or open their Kindle, and discover for themselves exactly what you’re trying to express.
In The Chocolatier’s Secret, Helen J Rolfe has written a novel that had me completely hooked from the start. Her characters are so richly drawn, her settings so beautifully described, and her story so appealing that I have to admit it. I absolutely loved this book. Sorry!
The storyline very much evolves from the characters themselves. Helen excels in this. Each of the main characters is fully-rounded, with flaws and failings as well as admirable qualities, so you feel you can really relate to them. She’s also exceptionally talented at description. She paints a vivid picture of a small Australian town, making it so easy to see it in your imagination. Sadly for me, she also brought the world of the chocolatier to life – a little too vividly. I was craving chocolate by the end of the book. Bang goes the diet. Again.
Seriously, this is such a beautiful story that engages all the emotions. It’s one of those books that just leaves you feeling completely happy and fully satisfied. A bit like chocolate. There are surprises, tears and laughter within its pages, and it all unfolds at just the right pace, never sagging, holding your interest right up to the heartwarming end.
I’ve loved all of Helen’s books, but this is my favourite so far. A new Helen J Rolfe novel is a must-have as far as I’m concerned. She’s just getting better and better! Definitely 5/5 from me.

You can buy The Chocolatier’s Secret here.

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