Return to Port Agnes by Jo Bartlett

Return to Port Agnes is the first in The Cornish Midwives series of novels

The last thing Ella Mehenick wants is the fifteen minutes of fame she’s found herself landed with. After all, who wants to star in a viral video of the very public ending of their relationship?

Newly single, and desperate to get as far away from her former fiancé as possible, Ella heads back to the Cornish seaside town of Port Agnes, where she grew up.

Working as a community midwife keeps her busy and, even if some of the locals seem to have an unhealthy fascination with the breakdown of her relationship, the other midwives soon make her feel like one of the team. Despite her disastrous dating history, Ella manages to play matchmaker to her new best friend and even dodges her parents’ attempts to get her to settle down with the boy next door.

Her only problem is Dan Ferguson, who seems hell bent on destroying a local landmark, which will tear the heart out of Port Agnes. When Dan turns out to be the one person who can help Ella, after a high risk pregnancy puts a patient in danger, she discovers he’s not the man she thought he was. But getting to know the real Dan is not as easy as she’d like it to be…

Someone in Port Agnes is determined not to let her move on from the past and will stop at nothing to make sure no-one forgets why Ella is back in town, even if that means breaking the law.

Will she ever be allowed to enjoy her return to Port Agnes, or are some things just impossible to leave behind?

You only have to look at that series title to know you’re going to be in for a treat. As a huge fan of series like Call the Midwife and Doc Martin, I knew this was going to be a pleasure to read when I saw it was the first in the new Cornish Midwives series. I wasn’t wrong.
Following a major personal embarrassment that went viral on social media, Ella returns to her home town of Port Agnes in beautiful Cornwall to take up a position as a midwife at the local unit. She is soon making her rounds, getting to know the expectant mothers in the Port Agnes area, sharing in their joys and fears and becoming part of their lives at one of the most important times they will ever experience.
Not all the mums-to-be are having an easy time. With phobias and unexpected pregnancies, some of them need Ella’s help more than others. Then there’s Tara, whose husband seems to be the most selfish and uncaring of fathers-to-be. When Ella spots him in a compromising situation in a local pub, her opinion of him sinks even lower. But is there more to Dan than she realises?
The Cornish countryside and the rural community comes alive in this novel. A sense of place is always important to me, and I could quite picture myself on the Cornish coast, eating pasties and listening to the cry of the gulls, as I read.
There’s a strong cast of supporting characters and I’m sure many of them will feature in future books in this series. There’s plenty of scope for more stories, as the midwives not only go about their work, but deal with all the twists and turns in their private lives, too.
Jo Bartlett is a lovely writer, and I always know I’m guaranteed a good read when I pick up one of her books. I’m looking forward to the next instalment in this delightful new series and can’t wait for my next trip to Cornwall!

You can buy Return to Port Agnes here.

The Right Mr Wrong by Pat Posner

When Tiphanie tells her boyfriend she’ll have to postpone their holiday to go and help her brother look after their niece and nephew he takes it badly and the consequences are far greater than she expects them to be. 

However, as soon as Tiphanie arrives at her brother’s home in a beautiful area close the salt marshes, she feels it will help bring peace of mind. 

But that isn’t easy to come by when you throw in the crazy antics of two cats (especially as one is undergoing therapy), a couple of lively children, a visit from an old friend that isn’t what it appears to be and the irritating, irksome man across the river who draws many wrong conclusions… 

Sometimes, complications and misunderstandings can be sorted out. But are there just too many of them standing in the way of the ‘Happy Ever After’ Tiphanie dreams of?

I always enjoy Pat Posner’s lovely writing and this book was no exception.
Tiphanie is an illustrator who is too kind for her own good. At the beck and call of her family, she always puts their needs first, something which irritates her boyfriend, Howard. When Howard decides she’s put him last too many times, he sees it as justification to behave very badly indeed, something which not only ends their relationship, but leads to a terrible misunderstanding with a third party that continues to have repercussions for Tiphanie.
Kyle is a writer with a fear of heights and a dislike of cats. He also has severe trust issues after a particularly painful marriage. His mistaken beliefs about Tiphanie and his ensuing rudeness lead her to nickname him Mr Sarky, so it’s not good news for either of them when the two become neighbours – albeit temporarily.
Against the beautiful and serene backdrop of the salt marshlands, misunderstandings abound, confusion arises, and passions are stirred, as Kyle’s and Tiphanie’s paths cross repeatedly and, against all odds, find their feelings for each other changing and deepening.
But will Tiphanie’s loyalty to her family and Kyle’s lack of trust ruin any chance they have of finding lasting happiness?
This is a lovely story with a really atmospheric setting. I loved the idea of a home in an old drainage mill on the marshes, and the descriptions of the wildlife were beautiful. I could hear the frogs, see the herons in my mind’s eye, taste the salt on my lips. The author really brings the location to life and made me want to explore the area for myself.
The two lead characters are eminently likeable – even Mr Sarky, after a bit of a shaky start. Tiphanie’s kind nature and loyalty to her – at times rather selfish – family immediately made me warm to her, and, behind that judgmental and cold exterior, I could sense the pain and fear in Kyle. I was rooting for the two of them to work things out and find happiness at last.
Another delightful story from a very accomplished author.

You can buy The Right Mr Wrong here.

Take Me, I’m Yours by Lizzie Lamb

India Buchanan plans to set up an English-Style bed and breakfast establishment in her great-aunt’s home, MacFarlane’s Landing, Wisconsin. But she’s reckoned without opposition from Logan MacFarlane whose family once owned her aunt’s house and now want it back. MacFarlane is in no mood to be denied. His grandfather’s living on borrowed time and Logan has vowed to ensure the old man sees out his days in their former home. India’s great-aunt has other ideas and has threatened to burn the house to the ground before she lets a MacFarlane set foot in it. There’s a story here. One the family elders aren’t prepared to share. When India finds herself in Logan’s debt, her feelings towards him change. However, the past casts a long shadow and events conspire to deny them the love and happiness they both deserve. Can India and Logan’s love overcome all odds? Or is history about to repeat itself?

Another winner from Lizzie Lamb. Despite taking us away from her usual setting of Scotland, Lizzie nevertheless manages to weave her magic as she brings us this passionate story of love, land, family feuds and sizzling sexual attraction.
India Buchanan has arrived at her family home of MacFarlane’s Landing, having left her well-paid job behind to take on a new challenge. With her great-aunt ill, someone needs to protect the house from those pesky MacFarlane varmints, as they are determined to win back the property that originally belonged to them. India has plans of her own for the place, and has no intention of letting a MacFarlane anywhere near.
What she didn’t count on was meeting the powerful, gorgeous and ultra-sexy Logan MacFarlane, who is just as determined that he will win the house back for his own family.
To say sparks fly between the two of them is an understatement, and doesn’t really do justice to this story. This is a real romance novel, and with the witty repartee and verbal squash game going on between the two main characters, it did remind me rather of an old Cary Grant/Katherine Hepburn movie – but with a lot more passion.
The sexual tension between India and Logan is palpable, and I was just longing for them to admit how they felt about each other.
With a setting that’s beautifully described, a great supporting cast, and a genuine conflict at the heart of the story, this is far more than just a will-they-won’t-they novel.
I was worried I would miss Scotland, but Lizzie has proved herself capable of taking her readers anywhere she wants them to go. I won’t worry again. Set your next novel wherever you like, Ms Lamb. I’ll happily go along for the ride!

Summer at Willow Tree Farm by Heidi Rice

Is home always where the heart is?
When Ellie spent a summer with her mum on a Wiltshire commune in the 90s it was a bigger disaster than Leo DiCaprio’s trip aboard the Titanic – so fleeing to America seemed a perfect plan.
But now, with her marriage falling apart, running back to her mum seems like the only option for her and her son Josh.
She wasn’t expecting Art, the boy she once had a crush on to still be working at Willow Tree Farm…And still be as hot and bothersome as he was when they were teenagers.
Ellie came to Willow Tree Farm for a fresh start. But is she ready to risk sailing her life – and her heart – into another iceberg?

 

 

I bought this on impulse when I saw it in a supermarket. I was about to go on holiday and it seemed like the perfect read, although I’d never read anything by Heidi Rice before.

Well, I have to say, I was hooked! This story absolutely sizzles with passion. The simmering sexual tension between Ellie and Art practically scorches the pages. And Art is seriously hot …

This is the story of two people who met many years before and had a rather uncomfortable relationship, and that’s putting it mildly. Ellie developed a crush on Art. Art was mean to her. Ellie moved away from Willow Tree Farm and never saw or heard from him again. Until now. Separated from her husband, she’s returned to the farm along with her son, Josh, to visit her mother, and a whole lot of memories are being stirred up, along with a most unwelcome lust for her former crush.

Art is the strong, silent type. He doesn’t say a lot, and whatever is going on in his head he keeps it well hidden away. He’s done a lot of growing up since Ellie left, becoming a father himself. Being dad to a young daughter, Toto, is proving tricky. He’s devoted to her, but doesn’t always have the best handle on parenting. He gives Toto a lot of freedom, which leads to more clashes with Ellie, whose parenting style is the opposite of his. As Josh and Toto strike up a friendship, this leads to some difficult scenarios to negotiate, and brings the two into ever closer contact.

As Ellie strives to rebuild her relationship with her mother, she throws herself into life at Willow Tree Farm, and battles to keep her growing desire for Art at bay. But it soon becomes obvious that his desires for her are just as great. The problem is, they have such a troubled history, and don’t even seem to like each other, so their mutual attraction is inconvenient, to say the least.

As the summer goes on, Ellie and Art face up to some unpleasant truths about their respective pasts, their present-day situation, and the realities of their relationship. There’s a whole lot more at stake than their pride, but do they have the courage to do what’s necessary to save the place they love and secure a future for everyone at Willow Tree Farm?

The setting for this book was just gorgeous. Willow Tree Farm is so beautifully described, and there’s a lot of sensual description in the novel that puts the reader right there with the characters. I loved all the characters, and found them well-drawn and believable. Josh and Toto were just adorable.

The relationship between Art and Ellie is pure passion, and throughout the book I was absolutely aching for them to finally get it together. I notice some reviewers feel that the book has too much action in the bedroom. Well, it certainly has some racy scenes, but it’s not exactly erotica. The love scenes are very much part of the story and essential to the characters’ overall development, so I have no problem with that at all. Plus, it’s well-written and, by the time I got to that part of the book, I was just so relieved that it finally happened!

Overall, I absolutely loved this book, and will definitely be reading more novels by this author. 5/5 from me.

You can buy Summer at Willow Tree Farm here.

The Little Cottage on the Hill by Emma Davies

There’s blossom in the trees and daffodils as far as the eye can see. Maddie is looking forward to a fresh start in the countryside, but there’s just one little problem…

Following a scandal at her high-flying PR agency, twenty-six-year-old Maddie flees London to help promote what she thinks is going to be a luxurious holiday retreat in the countryside. Everything is riding on her making a success of this new job…

Yet when she arrives, Maddie is horrified to find a rundown old farm in a terrible state. The brooding and secretive owner, Seth, spent all his money on leasing the land when he fell in love with the beautiful, dishevelled farm cottages and the very romantic story behind them.

When Maddie discovers an old oil painting by the original owner’s wife, she unlocks the secret of the farm’s history and quickly realises she must start getting her hands dirty if this very special place is going to have any chance of survival. As she and Seth begin working together, the stunning view from the top of the hill is not the only thing that’s leaving her breathless…

After weeks of hard work the dream looks like it might become a reality, until a secret from Maddie’s past threatens to snatch it all away again. Can Maddie find a way to save the business and herself? Will she finally find a place to keep her heart within the crumbling walls of the little cottage on the hill?

This is the first book by Emma Davies that I’ve read, and I must say I thoroughly enjoyed it. Emma manages to create a beautiful setting for her novel, with such vivid descriptions that you feel as if you’re actually there with her characters. Joy’s Acre comes to life under the deft touch of the author, and I totally fell in love with the farm, complete with cottages, farmhouse and gardens.

I quickly became absorbed in the story, intrigued by Maddie and what, exactly, someone like her was doing in a place like that. I wondered how she would fit in, how her ideas could ever be reconciled with those of the owner of Joy’s Acre, Seth. It seemed that, from their very first meeting, they were destined to disagree, to clash swords over the future of the farm. I needn’t have wondered, because Emma Davies handles the storyline perfectly, pacing it beautifully and carefully edging Seth and Maddie towards common ground, an understanding of each other’s viewpoint, and onto so much more.

The characters were appealing – even if Seth did come across as pretty unforgiving and unapproachable at first. As layers of his personality were revealed, bit by bit, I grew to like him very much. I may even have developed a bit of a crush on him, actually.

Every single character in the book is interesting and likeable – with the possible exception of Agatha, although even she has her reasons for her behaviour. I was intrigued by Tom the thatcher. He clearly has issues and I’m wondering what the author has in store for him. Maddie is a likeable heroine, and Trixie and Clara are the sort of women you’d want to be friends with. The whole set-up at the farm, with the five adults working together to create something absolutely magical, was most enjoyable and made for a delightful read.

I’m happy to see that there is a forthcoming sequel to this novel, and I’ve already pre-ordered it, so that says a lot.

Overall, it’s definitely a winner, and I’m happy to give it five stars.

You can buy The Little Cottage on the Hill here.

That Summer at the Seahorse Hotel by Adrienne Vaughan

Mia Flanagan has never been told who her father is and aged ten, stopped asking.

Haunted by this, she remains a dutiful daughter who would never do anything to bring scandal or shame on her beautiful and famously single mother.

So when Archie Fitzgerald, one of Hollywood’s favourite actors, decides to leave Mia his Irish estate, she asks herself – is he her father after all?

That Summer at the Seahorse Hotel is a tale of passion, jealousy and betrayal – and the ghost of a secret love that binds this colourful cast yet still threatens, after all these years, to tear each of them apart.

 

The cover sets the tone for this book. A young woman, her back to us, drifts along a beautiful beach, evoking the image of a dream, or perhaps a memory …

Memories play a huge part in this story. Something happened at The Seahorse Hotel. Something that no one involved in the event will talk about, even to each other, and certainly not to Mia. Mia knows that the people she grew up with know the truth about her father, but she has stopped asking. Instead, she contents herself with her “family”: her mother, glamorous actress, Fenella; her mother’s childhood friend, Bernice; housekeeper/friend/mystic Leela; and, above all, Archie – Fenella’s dear friend, actor, playwright, brother to Bernice, and all-round gorgeous human being. Rumour has it that Archie might – just might – be her father. Mia has often wondered herself, and when she discovers that Archie plans to leave her his estate in his will, she has even more cause to ponder on the truth about her parentage.

Galty House, codename The Seahorse Hotel, is Archie’s beloved home on the Irish coast. A safe haven from the world, no one ever says goodbye there, because they all know they will see each other again. But Archie’s time is running out – a sad fact that brings the Galty House family together again. Fenella is desperate to know that Archie won’t break his promise to her, and reveal her secrets to her daughter. Bernice is desperate to know the contents of her brother’s will. The Seahorse Hotel is her home, and she has no intention of handing it over to anyone else – even the young woman she has loved, almost like a daughter, since the day she was born.

As the family spend their days with Archie, making the most of the time they have left with him, they are joined by two newcomers to the area. American hotel owner and businessman, Ross Power, and his young niece, Pearl, find themselves drawn to the flamboyant and unusual people at Galty House, and their lives become entwined. Ross has business worries that are wearing him down, and Pearl is feeling insecure and unsure. Discovering Mia on the beach, she becomes convinced that her new friend is a mermaid, and the two of them form a bond. Mia can relate to the little girl who has no relationship with her father and rarely sees her mother.

The days of summer are spent as much as possible at The Seahorse Hotel, revelling in Archie’s company, sailing his grand new boat, and visiting the island that lies just off the coast – abandoned, mysterious, nursing its own secrets.

By summer’s end, there will be partings, reunions, and revelations, as The Seahorse Hotel and its occupants finally begin to let go of the past and open up to the future, with all its glorious possibilities.

I’ve loved all of Adrienne Vaughan’s books so far. She has a way of drawing you into a story, wrapping you in glorious scenery, fabulous characters, and a delicious narrative. Sometimes, it seems there are so many people you wonder how you keep track of them all, but somehow you do. With great assuredness, Adrienne Vaughan weaves her spell and leads you, like some bewitching spirit guide, through the tangled threads of her tale, making sure you are never left behind and always enticing you on, so all you can do is follow the path, desperate to see where it leads next. Much like the girl on the cover, you want to go where she goes, find out where she’s heading, what’s going to happen.

Adrienne never lets you down. The pace never slackens, the spell never fades. I loved Mia, who was a wonderful protagonist. I adored Pearl, and I absolutely one hundred per cent fell for Ross. But Archie – ah, my heart belongs to Archie. What a character! What a fabulous story.

This is, without doubt, my favourite of Adrienne’s books so far. Her  gift for storytelling just seems to get better with each one, and I’m kind of sad that I’ve finished That Summer at the Seahorse Hotel. I hope it won’t be too long before there’s another of her books to read! Just wonderful. 5/5

You can buy That Summer at the Seahorse Hotel here.

A Little Christmas Faith by Kathryn Freeman

Is it time to love Christmas again?
Faith Watkins loves Christmas, which is why she’s thrilled that her new hotel in the Lake District will be open in time for the festive season. And Faith has gone all out; huge Christmas tree, fairy lights, an entire family of decorative reindeer. Now all she needs are the guests … 
But what she didn’t bank on was her first paying customer being someone like Adam Hunter. Rugged, powerfully built and with a deep sadness in his eyes, Adam is a man that Faith is immediately drawn to – but unfortunately he also has an intense hatred of all things Christmassy.
As the countdown to the big day begins, Faith can’t seem to keep away from her mysterious guest, but still finds herself with more questions than answers: just what happened to Adam Hunter? And why does he hate Christmas?

I’m slowly catching up on my Christmas reading – having been too busy to read all those festive novels before the big day. I may even have read them all by Easter, who knows? Anyway, this week it was the turn of A Little Christmas Faith, a book with a gorgeous cover that really made me want to investigate further. I’m very glad I did, because I really enjoyed this novel.

Faith is a big fan of Christmas, and her new hotel in the Lake District is practically Christmas Hotel. She’s decorated it to within an inch of its life, and she’s looking forward to sharing the big day with her loving family – her very supportive mum and dad, her two sisters, Hope and Charity (yes, really!) and their husbands, and her beautiful baby nephew, as well as teenage niece, Chloe.

Chloe has been roped in to help out at the hotel in the run-up to Christmas, as her mum is worried about her recent attitude and hopes that a bit of hard work will sort her daughter out. Unfortunately, Chloe’s attitude continues to cause problems for Faith, as she is hardly the most welcoming face on the reception desk, and she makes a very bad impression on the hotel’s first paying guest, Adam Hunter.

Adam is the opposite to Faith. He hates Christmas and is determined to spend it alone. No big, happy family for Adam. Just a hotel room and some solitude. He is appalled by the over-the-top decorating scheme at the hotel, and seems fixed on ignoring the festive period entirely, his entire focus being on keeping fit at the gym. Sadly, even the hotel gym fails to please him, and he is forced to go further afield to continue his training.

Despite their obvious differences, there is a huge attraction between Adam and Faith. Sparks positively fly whenever they are together. But Adam is only staying until just after Christmas, so Faith can’t risk getting involved with him. And Adam is so solitary it’s a wonder he’s not wearing a big “Keep Off” sign around his neck.

Against all odds, Faith and Adam are drawn together, and, much to their own surprise, find they are falling for each other. But Adam is clearly carrying a huge burden, and he is unwilling to share it with Faith. His past – shrouded in mystery – is ruining his present, and threatening his future. Faith, it seems, has no choice but to accept their relationship for what it is – strictly temporary. Christmas will soon be over, and so will her relationship with Adam.

Or maybe the two of them just need a little Christmas faith …

This is a lovely festive story. There’s lots of sizzling passion between Adam and Faith, a beautiful setting, a gorgeous hotel, plenty of romance and some mystery, too. The secondary characters are well-drawn. I particularly loved the storyline about Chloe, and really took to the troubled teen.

Christmas may be over for another year, but I’d still recommend this book to give you a much-needed shot of festive cheer. Just the thing to help you cope with a dismal January!

You can buy A Little Christmas Faith here.

Christmas at the Little Village School by Jane Lovering

A teacher’s life is never easy … especially at Christmas!
Working at a tiny village school in rural Yorkshire has its own unique set of challenges – but when teachers Lydia Knight and Jake Immingham are tasked with getting the children to put on a Christmas play for the local elderly people’s home, they know they’re in for a tricky term! 

But in between choreographing sugar plum dance routines, reindeer costume malfunctions and trying to contain Rory Scott’s wannabe rap star aspirations, Lydia realises that, even as a teacher, she isn’t past being taught a couple of things – and one of those things is a much-needed lesson in Christmas spirit. 

 

 

I always enjoy Jane Lovering’s books, and this was no exception. The setting is just gorgeous – a North Yorkshire rural village, deep in snow as Christmas approaches. Perfection.

The story centres around a little school – the clue’s in the title, I suppose! Lydia is a teacher at the school, and she’s charged with putting on a Christmas play to entertain the residents of the local nursing home. Luckily, she has fellow teacher, new arrival Jake, to help her. Or is that, unluckily? Because Lydia is quite smitten with Jake, and that’s bad news for her, since she doesn’t date men. Or make friends with them, come to that. Or even make civilised conversation, most of the time. Men are strictly out of bounds, because Lydia has a self-defence system that ensures they keep well away from her. Except, it doesn’t seem to be working on Jake. He just keeps coming back for more. He’s clearly determined that the two of them will work well together and will be friends. For confused Lydia, that’s what she wants more than anything, and also what she wants least of all.

I really enjoyed the way we only discovered the reason for Lydia’s behaviour halfway through the book. By that time, I’d already got to know her and care about her, and maybe (shamefully) I’d have had a different view of her if I’d realised at the beginning. As it was, by the time her reasons were revealed, I was totally with Jake, and felt pretty much as he did. I don’t want to say any more about that, because I don’t want to give away the twist.

As always with Jane’s books, there’s lots of humour, and I loved the classroom stuff, with the preparations for the play, and the “telling it like it is”, and the fun of the dodgy costumes and wangling for more lines – and that’s just Jake.

This is a fairly short book, easy to read, and a real treat that you can devour quicker than a box of Christmas chocolates – unless you’re like me, in which case you could probably eat the chocolates much faster. But at least there are no calories in this, and it will leave you feeling all happy and festive and contented, whereas the chocolates will just leave you feeling guilty and probably a little bit nauseous. So ditch the chocs and buy this fabulous little book instead. It’s another winner from Jane.  5/5

You can buy Christmas at the Little Village School here.

Away for Christmas by Jan Ruth

Jonathan Jones has written a novel. Losing his job a few days before Christmas means the pressure is on for his book to become a bestseller, but when his partner drops her own bombshell, the festive holiday looks set to be a disaster.
When he’s bequeathed a failing bookshop in their seaside town, it seems that some of his prayers have been answered, but his publishing company turn out to be not what they seem, and when his ex-wife suddenly declares her romantic intent, another Christmas looks set to be complicated.
Is everything lost, or can the true meaning of words, a dog called Frodo, and the sheer magic of Christmas be enough to save Jonathan’s book, and his skin?

This book was an impulse buy, bought after reading a glowing review on Anne Williams’ fabulous blog, Being Anne. It sounded just my cup of tea, and so I rushed over to Amazon and downloaded it. The very next day, full of cold and feeling a bit sorry for myself, I settled down on the sofa, switched on my Kindle and began reading.

Oh, how I loved this book! It was exactly what I needed to take me out of myself for a few hours. It’s definitely festive, without being overloaded with sugary sweet seasonal gushings.

Jonathan Jones is hardly usual hero material. In fact, at first, it was hard to like him, as much as I could sympathise with him. That, however, added to the pleasure of the story. Jonathan is flawed. He’s quite self-obsessed and selfish, and seems oblivious to the needs of the people around him who love him, and deserve his attention.

Jonathan is a writer. I can just imagine my husband rolling his eyes and saying ’nuff said. I confess, there was a part of me that prickled with unease, as I read about Jonathan’s total preoccupation with his imaginary world, and his habit of opening his laptop or checking Facebook on his mobile phone when he really should be paying attention to the people around him. Sorry, family!

The thing about Jonathan is, he’s just secured a three-book publishing deal with Tangerine Press, and he’s convinced that fame and acclaim are just around the corner. His books are going to fly, and he will be hailed as a literary genius, thanks to the wonderful crime fiction that he spends every waking moment either working on or thinking about.

He’s so absorbed in his own little world that he doesn’t notice that his relationship with his live-in partner, Catherine, is being badly affected, and he doesn’t dwell too long on the dismal state of his long-distance relationship with daughter, Lizzie, who lives with his ex-wife and her rich and successful second husband in London.

Everything not connected with writing is a chore to Jonathan, and even losing his job as an accountant doesn’t bother him too much, although he decides it’s probably best to keep that news from Catherine until after Christmas. Then Catherine drops her own little bombshell, and Jonathan’s life starts to unravel …

Told over three Christmases, this novel explores the harsh realities of the writing life and the publishing world, with such compassion and humour that, slowly, I started to feel sorry for Jonathan, whose idealism is soon crushed as he awakens to the fact that maybe Tangerine Press aren’t going to help him fulfil his literary dreams after all.

Against a backdrop of the slightly sad, faded Welsh seaside town of Rhos-on-Sea, we follow Jonathan as he comes to terms, not just with his failing writing career, but with his realisation that other things in life matter just as much, if not far more, and that it’s time he stopped neglecting them and began to focus on what really matters.

I loved everything about this story. The touching plot about Catherine’s grandparents, with Gwilym’s dementia and how that impacts on Jonathan’s future, is lovely. The setting of Beachside Books is inspired. I could picture the failing bookshop so clearly in my mind, and I loved the way the shop reflected Jonathan’s life as a whole, beginning as an empty building that no one cared about, and ending with a packed room, full of people who care, promising a hopeful future. I really enjoyed the image of the cosy Christmas window display, complete with fairy lights and a rocking horse, that the author painted. The arrival of little dog, Frodo, is a bonus. He’s quite a character, and gives added warmth to Jonathan’s story, showing another side to the man. I especially loved the relationship between Jonathan and his daughter, Lizzie. Lizzie wasn’t at all what I was expecting, and I found her to be a charming character.

Mostly, I think I enjoyed the fact that, although this story has love and romance running through its pages, it’s far from conventional.  Throughout the book, I was never certain how the story was going to end, and who Jonathan would end up with. The finale was thoroughly satisfying, and left me feeling really contented and thrilled for everyone concerned. It proved that Jonathan had been on a huge journey, and had finally realised what mattered most of all. He deserved his happy ending!

This is quite a short book, but it’s certainly not rushed, and the story plays out at just the right pace. It brightened my morning, and I definitely want to read more books by Jan Ruth. 5/5

You can buy Away for Christmas here 

Warwick’s Mermaid by Ellie Gray

Having escaped an abusive relationship, Chloe MacGregor is determined to put the past behind her. The little cottage high up on the cliffs overlooking the beautiful North Yorkshire town of Whitby is her safe haven, somewhere she is free to be herself.

When the arrival of her new neighbour and boss, Luke Warwick, threatens her peaceful, sheltered life, Chloe is forced to confront her past and to re-evaluate who she really is. Falling in love with Luke is not part of her plan but, to her surprise, Luke is falling for her too. The only thing preventing their happy ever after is Chloe herself. Will she ever truly learn to leave the past where it belongs?

I’ve loved both of Ellie’s previous two novels, Beauty and the Recluse and Love on the Nile, and I had high hopes for this one. After all, it’s set in one of my favourite places, Whitby in North Yorkshire, a place I’ve visited on many occasions.

Luckily, Warwick’s Mermaid lived up to my expectations. Like Ellie’s other books, it’s unashamedly romantic, sweeping the reader along on a tide of passion, drama and sexual tension.

Chloe, the heroine, is undoubtedly damaged. She’s had a terrible time with her ex-boyfriend, putting up with dreadful abuse – both mental and physical. Breaking free from him, she is still a prisoner of her own low self-esteem – held there, in part, by the drip drip of negative comments she has endured from her own mother all her life. Chloe’s mum has suffered at the hands of a man, and she’s determined that Chloe won’t have the same fate. Unfortunately, all her efforts to convince her daughter to stay away from men have ensured that Chloe is a mass of insecurities and doubts.

When she meets Luke, Chloe experiences an overwhelming attraction that astounds and scares her. But with her heart telling her one thing, and her head another, she is paralysed to move forward with her life and take a chance on this handsome man who has come to her rescue.

For Luke, his feelings for Chloe are a bolt from the blue, and she’s not the only one who’s scared. Falling in love was not part of his plans, and he tries his best to stay away from this intriguing creature, who seems very prone to getting herself into bother.

But when the two of them are thrown together, sparks fly and there is no denying their feelings for each other. With troubled pasts and a mutual suspicion of relationships, can they ever put aside their fears and make a fresh start together?

Warwick’s Mermaid is a passionate love story that will carry you along on waves of emotion as you follow Chloe’s and Luke’s journey back to happiness. Ellie has written another winner here, and I’m looking forward to seeing what she comes up with next. 5/5

You can buy Warwick’s Mermaid here.