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.

A Highland Practice by Jo Bartlett

In my “real life” I work in a busy medical practice, and I spend five days a week surrounded by doctors, nurses, receptionists and patients. It can be a very stressful world, and it would be a heck of a lot more enjoyable if a) the surgery was in the beautiful Highland town of Balloch Pass instead of in a city, and b) if we had a fabulous doctor like Alasdair James (no offence to any of our GPs)!

Balloch Pass and Dr James can, instead, be found within the pages of this gorgeous novel by Jo Bartlett, and it’s the fictional Dr Evie Daniels who finds herself working at the Highland practice alongside the delightful Alasdair, when she arrives to work as a locum for a short time, before setting off on her travels around the world.

Evie has had a traumatic time recently. The loss of her beloved mother and the end of an engagement have left her reeling, and all she wants now is to make her mum proud of her by living out the dreams that her mother never got to fulfil. Evie’s mum wanted to travel, and Evie has sworn that she will visit all the places her mother wanted to visit, and see them for her. Her first stop is the Highlands of Scotland – a place, Evie feels, where she will be able to draw breath after the grief and upheaval, and make plans for the next leg of her journey.

What Evie hasn’t banked on is meeting someone like Alasdair, who is clearly a local hero. Beloved by his patients, he is kind, patient, professional and compassionate. They meet in unusual circumstances, when they are both caught in an unexpected emergency, and their rapport is immediately obvious. Evie and Alasdair work well together, and before long, their professional relationship evolves into something deeper – much to the delight of receptionist Susie, nurse Julia, and a whole assortment of locals who can’t wait to see that nice Dr James settle down with someone who truly deserves him.

Unfortunately for the two of them, their timing couldn’t be worse. Evie has made a promise to go off and see the world, whereas Alasdair has made his own promise to stay in Balloch Pass, and there is no way he can or will break that promise – even if it means losing the woman he loves. There seems no room for compromise, and with more than just Evie’s and Alasdair’s hearts at risk, it appears that this fledgling love will never fly.

This is a lovely story, evoking a real sense of place, and made me long to head up to the Highlands of Scotland to discover its beauty for myself. Dr James is a wonderful hero, and I really felt for him as he tried valiantly to be unselfish and to do the right thing for the people he loves. Evie had my sympathy, too, as I totally understood her reasons for wanting to travel. I could feel her desperation as she battled with loyalty to her mother’s memory, and her overwhelming feelings for Alasdair.

With a whole host of well-drawn and enjoyable secondary characters, a fabulous setting, and a love story that burns brightly at its heart – not to mention a catalogue of medical dramas that grip the attention and have you turning the pages rapidly – this is a book that I would recommend to anyone.  Like all Jo Bartlett’s books, it’s a real joy to read. 5/5

You can buy A Highland Practice here.

 

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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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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Among a Thousand Stars by Jo Bartlett

Having loved Jo Bartlett’s novella, The Gift of Christmas Yet to Come, I was pretty sure I would love this book. In fact, it far exceeded my expectations. The plot kept my interest throughout, and the characters were so well-drawn that I wanted to know more about them. The combination of romance, humour and poignancy ensured that I kept turning the pages, desperate to know what happened next.

Ashleigh is a freelance photographer, who is assigned by Glitz Magazine to take photographs of PR supremo, Tom Rushworth, and his dreadful, pregnant fiancee Susie-Ann. It’s hardly the usual first meeting for a romantic couple, and it’s certainly not ideal, but from that first moment, sparks fly between Tom and Ashleigh. Of course, things are not going to run smoothly. Even without Susie-Ann in the equation, there is another huge obstacle in their way. Tom does not believe that love exists. Having seen the catastrophe that was his parents’ marriage, he is certain that love is an illusion, and Ashleigh, wounded by a previous relationship, is happy to go along with his suggestion of a no-strings relationship, at first. But when her feelings start to change, how can she possibly find happiness with a man who is adamant that they will never be anything more than friends with benefits?

I loved Ashleigh, who felt like a friend from the start. I also grew to love Tom. At first, I was a bit uncertain about him, as he appeared to be one of those alpha male heroes who is totally in charge of his life and everyone else’s life come to that. But as the story progressed and I saw the off-duty version of Tom, I really warmed to him.

Both Ashleigh’s and Tom’s mothers feature quite heavily in the book and I really liked both of them. They couldn’t be more different, but both played an important part in defining their children’s characters and in deciding their destiny. Two characters who deserve a special mention are Stevie and Zac. Neither grabbed me at first, but boy, did they grow on me! They added a wonderful dimension to the story and played a pivotal role in the events that unfolded. Not forgetting Bertie – the gorgeous, loyal and very sensible dog who understood far more than anyone else and made his feelings on the matter very clear.

From the glamorous celebrity photo shoots and the nightclubs populated by the rich and famous, to the windswept beaches of Kent at Christmas, and on to the crazy whirlwind that is Las Vegas, the novel leads you behind the scenes of Ashleigh’s life as a celebrity photographer, demonstrating the contrast between her professional and personal lives. In the author’s capable hands, you find yourself laughing out loud one minute and in tears the next. She writes humour magnificently, but she can also pack a powerful emotional punch.

With beautifully described settings, fabulous characterization, and a storyline full of twists, turns, laughter, warmth, and real depth, Among a Thousand Stars is a gem of a novel. I look forward to reading the next offering from this talented author. 5/5

You can buy Among a Thousand Stars here.

You can buy The Gift of Christmas Yet to Come here and read my review here

 

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