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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Somebody Else’s Boy by Jo Bartlett

This book really took a hold of me from page one, and didn’t let go, even after I’d read The End and closed down my Kindle.
Some books take a little getting into, but Somebody Else’s Boy gripped me from the start. It’s a really beautiful story, well-written, and so packed full of emotional twists and turns that I couldn’t bear to put it down for long, and had finished it within a day.
The setting of St Nicholas Bay is described really well. I love the town’s Dickens connection, and can imagine this place so well in my mind. The characters are fantastically drawn, giving this book real depth and warmth and heart. It has lots of laughs – the author certainly has a sparkling sense of humour, and a sharp wit – but it also has dark moments. The description of Jack’s grief is so raw, so painful, that I had to put down my Kindle for a moment, look across to my husband, and – much to his astonishment (and mine!) – announce there and then that I loved him. It seemed important to put it into words while I could because, as Jack discovers, you never know when that chance will be taken away.
It’s not only Jack who has suffered a loss. Nancy’s grief is different but no less agonising, and I loved the depiction of her father’s situation and how it affects not only her, but her mother and brother, too.
Somebody Else’s Boy deals with love, loss, grief, betrayal and guilt. In fact, guilt is a major theme of this book. So many of the characters in here struggle on, trying to do what they believe is the “right thing”, putting their own needs aside out of guilt. It certainly made me think about how much we do this in real life. How guilt can weigh us down and ruin our own lives, and how misplaced this guilt is. Would the people who have loved us, really want us to lose our own chance of happiness, out of loyalty to their memory? Yet, even knowing that intellectually, doesn’t always help us to accept it emotionally. This novel beautifully and deftly deals with this very issue, and it really does tug at the heartstrings.
The burgeoning love between Nancy and Toby is lovely, and the developing relationships between other characters keep adding new layers to the story, taking you sometimes by surprise, but never feeling forced or unlikely.
It’s a deep and thought-provoking book, but it’s also cosy and romantic and funny, too. There are lots of laugh-out-loud moments, and moments that make you feel all warm and fuzzy and contented. Sometimes, happy endings can only come about when you learn to accept what is, and make the best of that, rather than wishing for what could have been. For some of the characters in this book, that’s exactly the lesson they have to learn, and I admire that the author was willing to write that truth. So, this is a book to make you think, a book to make you smile, a book to make you appreciate what you’ve got, and the people you have in your life. I can’t think of a single negative thing to say about it, and I’m really looking forward to my next visit to St Nicholas Bay. 5/5

You can buy Somebody Else’s Boy here.

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Handle Me With Care by Helen J Rolfe

What a lovely story this is! I started reading it on holiday, intending to spread it out over several days. Instead, I read the whole book in one day, finishing it in the early hours of the morning, as I just couldn’t wait to find out what was going to happen next.

Maddie lost Riley, her true love, in New York, on the eleventh of September 2001. Her hopes of a happy future were buried in the ruins of the World Trade Center, and ever since that horrific day she has shunned relationships, afraid that she’ll only get hurt again. When she meets Evan – thanks to a rather amusing mix-up involving a naughty cake and a birthday party for an old lady’s one hundredth birthday – Maddie quickly realises that he could be the one to heal her wounds and help her to love again. But Evan has something to tell her, and his news leaves Maddie terrified of losing yet another important person in her life. Dare she risk having her heart broken all over again?
Evan, meanwhile, is dealing with the most terrifying thing that has ever happened to him. With his life turned upside down, he realises that he wants marriage, a family…but has he left it too late? Can these two frightened people take a chance on the future, or has fate played the cruellest trick of all on them both?

This is a really moving story, which tugs at the heartstrings and grips you from the start. Evan and Maddie are great characters and you can’t help but root for them throughout the entire novel. Secondary characters are interesting, too. I really liked Jem, Evan’s mischievous gran, and also his lovely sister and brother-in-law. There is a lot of medical information but this is relayed in a realistic and sympathetic manner and you never feel as if you’re being lectured. The settings are beautifully described and the book is well-written.

I confess I had a tear in my eye more than once while I was reading it, because the emotions that the characters go through are so sensitively and realistically portrayed. There’s no doubt that the issues covered in Handle Me With Care are huge, but, at heart, this is a story of two people learning to overcome their fears and make a giant leap of faith. It’s a story about love, and it’s wonderful. Highly recommended.

Buy Handle Me With Care here:51Idgl8ti5L._AC_UL160_SR100,160_