Annie’s Lovely Choir by the Sea by Liz Eeles/Annie’s Holiday by the Sea

Every now and again, you pick up a book (or your Kindle) and find a story that just seems so easy-to-read that it feels like coming home. Which, in the case of Annie’s Lovely Choir by the Sea, is quite fitting, really, since that’s one of the main themes of the story.

Annie Trebarwith is a real loner. Since the death of her mum, she has been living an independent life in London, sharing a flat in the capital, embarking on a series of temporary office jobs, and putting her failed romance with a lecherous ex behind her. Life with her mother was unconventional, and Annie has grown used to moving around, never settling, never putting down roots. She is all too aware that her mother’s Cornish family turned its back on her when she got pregnant and that her parents wanted nothing to do with her, or her baby. As a result, Annie is equally determined to have nothing to do with her extended family.

So it’s a bit of a shock when she is invited to Cornwall to visit her great aunt Alice, who has not been well and is in need of help. Finally meeting a member of the family is bad enough, but the culture shock of Cornwall in January, after the busy streets of London, is enough to make Annie decide that this visit will be very brief indeed. Her determination only increases when, upon arrival in the coastal village of Salt Bay, she has an unpleasant encounter with Josh Pascoe – a grumpy-looking chap who definitely isn’t someone she wants to get to know better, even if he does look like a cross between Poldark and Richard Armitage.

The dismal, wet weather does nothing to change Annie’s mind, but Aunt Alice turns out to be rather lovely, and new friend Kayla, who is Australian and great fun, makes the village more interesting. When Annie’s love of music leads her to revive the Salt Bay Choral Society, her bonds with the village and its past tighten, and she makes new discoveries about her own family’s past.

But events conspire to drive Annie back to London, where she is employed by her new found relative Toby. But are Toby’s motives for giving her a job entirely honourable? Annie frets about Aunt Alice, about the future of the choir, and – in spite of all her best attempts – about what exactly the devilishly handsome Josh is getting up to.

But an independent London girl doesn’t belong in a Cornish village, does she? And with Josh’s evident dislike of the Trebarwith family, there’s really nothing to go back to…Is there?

I absolutely loved this book. It’s written in such a deceptively easy style that I just found myself turning page after page, eager to find out what happened next. Annie is a wonderful main character – her vulnerable nature brilliantly masked by a great sense of humour. Josh is absolutely gorgeous, and yes, I did fall in love with him. Too right, I did!

Salt Bay is such a delightful village. Having holidayed many times in Cornish coastal villages, it felt very real and familiar to me. I laughed at the scene which featured a coastal path down to the beach. I totally related to poor Annie’s struggles with it. I’ve struggled  similarly myself. Those paths are horrendous! There were some real laugh-out-loud moments in this book, and yet it had an emotional pull, too. I will confess, I had a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye as I read the last page. Very moving indeed.

I would definitely recommend this book. It’s a great holiday read, and I absolutely can’t wait to get my hands on the sequel and find out what Josh and Annie get up to next. 5/5

Updated to say the title of this book has been changed to Annie’s Holiday by the Sea.

You can buy Annie’s Holiday by the Sea here.

Every Woman for Herself by Trisha Ashley

Every Woman for Herself is another brilliant Trisha Ashley novel. Her heroine is one Charlotte (Charlie) Fry, nee Rymer, whose extremely selfish husband decides their marriage is over (a fait accompli, apparently) and basically clears off back to Saudi on his next business trip, leaving Charlie to pick up the pieces and start again. Charlie doesn’t sit around, weeping and wailing. She decides to get on with her life, and, after a rather unfortunate episode with a frying pan that is just a joy to read, in a rather guilty way, she heads home to her father’s house on the Yorkshire moors.

Charlie’s amorous father has had a long string of mistresses, and his current one, the glamorous Jessica, is currently living at the Parsonage (not a real Parsonage, just its name) along with her two children. It’s rather crowded, as, besides Charlie’s older sister Em, who is most definitely in charge of the place, their other sister, Anne, has returned home, as has brother Bran, an absolutely extraordinary character.  It’s quite difficult to tell whether Bran is mad or just very, very clever. Either way, eccentric doesn’t even begin to cover it, but I loved reading about him. As you can probably tell, Charlie’s father had a real interest in the Brontes and was trying to recreate them, in some sort of strange experiment. He’s another eccentric!

In the family’s cottage, just down the road,  the exotic-looking famous actor, Mace North, and his little girl are staying, while Mace works on his play. When Charlie’s misadventures in her new job lead to her being sacked, Em arranges for her to work for Mace, taking care of his daughter, and before long they have built up quite a rapport. With the help of Em, who is now dabbling in the dark arts, Mace falls under Charlie’s spell – at least, that’s what Charlie believes. Funny, then, that Gloria’s potion to remove the spell doesn’t seem to work.  The all-seeing Gloria isn’t keen on Mace, and doesn’t want him to get his hands on Charlie. She sees nothing but disaster in such a union. On the other hand, she could be getting mixed up.

Em, who is keeping a tight rein on the house, is fighting a determined battle to prevent Jessica from taking over her home and changing the way things are done. Nothing is going to distract her from that purpose. Or is it?

Anne, a war correspondent, is fighting a different sort of battle, and she’s taking it all in her stride, including moving on from the boyfriend who badly let her down, just when she needed him most.

It’s a chaotic household, but it’s very much held together with love and laughter, and the Parsonage has always been the place that the family can return to and find things carrying on, pretty much as what passes for normal in the Rymer family. So, when Jessica announces that she is marrying their father, and then decides they are going to sell the Parsonage and move into a more modern, comfortable house, it’s a real blow to them all. Can the Rymers pull together and stay together? Especially after a particularly disturbing piece of information about Charlie and Bran comes to light.

With a lovestruck, leather-clad vicar, a group of friendly, neighbourhood witches, and a vengeful widow who is determined to wreck Charlie’s life, this is an extremely entertaining novel. Then there’s Skint Old Northern Woman, a real stroke of genius on Charlie’s (and the author’s!) part. Throw in the unsentimental warmth of the family relationships, the smouldering sex appeal of Mace North, dogs, children, and laugh-out-loud scenes, and you have a really wonderful story that’s an absolute joy to read.

Definitely five stars from me!

You can buy Every Woman for Herself here.

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Every Woman for Herself was the first book I’ve read for the Jera’s Jamboree Reading Challenge. It ticks the box for the category, “A book you own but haven’t read”. If you’d like to take part in the challenge, click here.

Getting Over Gary by Jessica Redland

I greatly enjoyed Searching for Steven, Jessica Redland’s previous full-length novel in the Whitsborough Bay series, and I also loved her novella, Raving About Rhys, so I was wondering if she would be able to come up with something that I enjoyed as much. In the event, I discovered that Getting Over Gary is my favourite of her books, so far.
The story revolves around Elise, best friend of Sarah, who featured in Searching for Steven. Elise is a lovely heroine, and I really felt her shock and pain as she makes a discovery that will change the course of her life. Her grief is compounded by the events in her sister’s and Sarah’s lives. Surrounded by happy couples and expectant parents, Elise is struggling to cope with her pain. Everything in her world has changed. Everything she thought she knew has been proven to be a lie. How can she start to put her life back together again?
Elise goes on a journey of discovery. Having been half of a couple since she was a teenager, she now has to learn who she is, and what she wants from life, now that her husband is out of the equation. Sometimes, she makes mistakes. Her judgement is a little off-balance occasionally – but how can it not be? She’s lonely, sad, confused and angry. The future she had mapped out for herself no longer exists. She has to grieve not only for what she had and lost, but for what she might have had and never will. So, of course, she’s going to make mistakes and plot a haphazard course for a while.
The great thing about Elise is that she doesn’t give up. Even with her dreams in tatters, she picks herself up and tries to mend herself, her way. Trying to put a brave face on things for the sake of her friend and sister shows what a kind and caring person she is. I really felt for her when she confronted her own mother – an awful old bat of a woman who was enough to crush the confidence of anyone, let alone someone as vulnerable as Elise. As for her mother-in-law! Words fail me.
I loved following Elise’s journey as she battled to get over Gary. I was rooting for her all the way through the book, and I really hoped she would get her happy ending. I won’t say what happens, but suffice it to say I had a big smile on my face when I came to the end.
Lovely, warm writing, great setting, characters you can really relate to, and a satisfactory conclusion. I’m now looking forward to reading the last in the Whitsborough Bay series, although I will be very sad to say goodbye. 5/5
You can buy Getting Over Gary here.
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Rumour Has It by Jill Mansell

I have no idea why, but this is the first Jill Mansell novel I’ve read, in spite of owning five or six of her books. I’ve meant to get round to it for ages, but recently, I decided to finally read one, and I selected Rumour Has It at random.

Well, I was completely hooked! From the first page the characterisation was outstanding and the writing strong. Jill Mansell makes it look completely effortless. The narrative flows onto the page, as bubbly and sparkling as fine Champagne, and I was carried along, utterly enthralled to the very last page.

I found all the characters really enjoyable – even Stella, who I actually ended up feeling really sorry for. Can’t say more than that. Spoilers! Tilly was lovely, and I was rooting for her all the way through the story. I totally adored Jack, and could quite see why the ladies of Roxborough were so smitten with him. Max and Lou were lovely – witty and interesting in their own right. And how refreshing to see an ex-wife portrayed in a good light, with a marriage that ended in friendship instead of all-out war.

The writing is so warm and funny and easy to read, which is the sign of a gifted writer. It’s lovely to read the last line, hug the book (or Kindle!) to you, and heave a deep sigh of satisfaction, and that’s what I did last night, having stayed up late to finish Rumour Has It, as I desperately wanted to know how it ended. I now have four or five other Jill Mansell books to read, and the prospect of many more available to buy, which is a lovely position to be in. Definitely five star fiction! 5/5

You can buy Rumour Has It here.5142KS91MRL._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_