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.

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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Love On the Nile by Ellie Gray

Having read Ellie Gray’s previous novel, Beauty and the Recluse, I was confident that I would enjoy this second offering, and I’m happy to say it more than lived up to my expectations.

Ellie writes such romantic stories, with really sexy and passionate heroes. In this novel, we have the added bonus of the beautiful backdrop of Egypt. I’ve never been to Egypt myself, but reading this book, I really felt as if I was there. I could feel the sun beating down on me, taste the dust in the back of my throat…I was highly relieved when the heroine reached for her bottle of water and glugged down the liquid. I was quite parched myself by that time!

So, what’s the story? Well, basically it’s girl hopes for holiday of a lifetime, visiting the breathtaking sites of ancient Egypt, girl gets unexpected guide on her dream vacation, guide turns out to be gorgeous but annoying, their attraction sizzles hotter than the Egyptian sun, guide has issues and reluctantly pushes girl away, and then…

Well, you’ll have to read it for yourself to discover what happens next. Let me just say, though, that there’s a lot more to this story than that paragraph could adequately explain. The almost mythical setting of the novel, the wonderful characters, the likeable and gutsy heroine, and the oh-so-sexy, dark and brooding hero, makes this a sheer delight to read. Natasha and Kyle’s romance is believable, sweet, tender, and smoking, all at the same time!

I thoroughly enjoyed immersing myself in this gorgeous book, and I was rooting for Kyle to battle his demons and take a chance on Natasha. I loved both main characters, but I also grew very fond of Natasha’s younger brother, Nicky, who is very sympathetically and realistically drawn, and on Aunt Lucy, too. Ellie has, in short, done it again, and now I’m very much looking forward to her third novel. Excellent read. 5/5

You can buy Love On the Nile 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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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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Christmas at the Crescent by Veronica Henry

This is such a lovely book. I’ve never read a Veronica Henry story that I didn’t enjoy, and this “noella” was no exception.
I really liked the heroine of the story, Josie, and was rooting for her right through the book, hoping that she’d get her happy ending.

Initially, it seemed quite obvious who was going to be the hero of the story, but I quickly realised that things weren’t going to be as straightforward as I’d supposed. I was quite torn for a while. The great thing about this book was that the two men in Josie’s life weren’t black and white. There were good and bad things about both of them. Both were kind and loving at times, and both behaved selfishly and thoughtlessly at others. Overall, though, it became clear eventually who deserved Josie, and who she would be happy with.

I adored Titus, who was so gorgeous that I got quite broody! And I loved the resolution, which felt just right, and was a lovely, romantic ending. This book is so Christmassy and the setting is gorgeous. Having visited Bath I could really picture the Crescent, and the whole thing left me feeling very festive and contented.

One word of warning! Don’t read if you’re on a diet. The descriptions of the food in this book are truly mouth-watering, plus there are some delicious sounding recipes at the back. Other than that, this is a winner. I loved it. 5/5

Buy Christmas at the Crescent here.51JAcZJ5j+L._AA160_

Warm Hearts in Winter by Helen Pollard

Feeling sad at the events in Paris, I wanted to turn off the television, retreat from social media, and escape into a good book. Having heard about, and buying this short novel, just this morning, it seemed like the perfect distraction. In the event, it far exceeded my expectations.
Warm Hearts In Winter is a lovely, cosy romance. It’s mostly set in the wilds of Yorkshire, and the main action takes place inside the hero’s house, where he is snowed in along with his new PA. Now, if that’s not a perfect setting for a romance, I don’t know what is.
Jack is a writer. Famed for his pacy thrillers, recently his style has changed somewhat. The change in direction has been instigated by the death of his much-loved wife. Jack is still grieving, and has locked himself away in his Yorkshire home, determined to finish his latest book. To that end, he needs help. He needs someone to make sense of his scribblings, type up his notes, fuel him with cups of tea and coffee, and even feed him now and then. He has been expecting the elderly lady who helped him with his last book to return, but Mrs Macintosh has been called away to help her sister, and he finds himself with a temp sent by an agency.
Abby is not what he’s been expecting at all, but then, Jack is hardly what she had in mind, either. Getting off to a somewhat shaky start, the two of them have to accept that – given the weather conditions and the remote location of Jack’s house – Abby is going nowhere, and they may as well work together. It soon becomes clear that there is an attraction between them. But Abby has issues about relationships with her employer, and Jack is still grieving for his wife. Neither of them wants their attraction to develop into anything deeper.
But with the snow falling outside, the cosy fire burning inside, and their close proximity as they work together on Jack’s book, can they stop their feelings from growing? And when danger threatens, Jack and Abby find they are drawn even closer together. Who is watching them? Who is making the silent phone calls? Is the house that shelters them from the snow as safe as they imagine?
Warm Hearts in Winter is just delightful. It wraps itself around you like a blanket, leaving you with a warm heart of your own. A gorgeous romance, with two main characters that you can’t help but love. A hint of mystery. A beautiful and deeply romantic location. I absolutely loved this book, and it came to me at just the right moment. In a sad world, it’s good to reflect on the power of love, and remember it’s never too late for a second chance. 5/5

You can buy Warm Hearts in Winter here.51SL6luGZ0L._AA160_

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_

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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