Monday, 31 October 2011

Review of Highland Storms by Christina Courtenay

Set in 1754, Highland Storms is the sequel to the award winning Trade Winds and is Christina Courtenay’s third novel. I was mesmerized by this book from the very beginning; just looking at the gorgeous cover suggests a beautiful but isolated and wild land.

The story follows handsome Brice Kinross as he travels from Sweden to his inherited estate, Rosyth, in the Scottish Highlands. Devastated by the betrayal of his brother Jamie and the loss of the woman he believes to be his true love, Brice yearns for a new life far away from Sweden. Arriving at Rosyth, he finds that all at the estate is not as it should be, suspecting that foul play may be involved he sets out to find the truth.
After the Jacobite Rebellion and consequent persecution of Highlanders who were thought to be sympathetic, strangers were treated cautiously and Brice, himself receiving a very cold reception, is not exempt from this. It is a difficult start for Brice and he realizes that eh must prove to the locals that he is a trustworthy person who will bring them no harm.

Brice is the ultimate heroic figure; he is brave and handsome, adventurous and clever. Hurt from a previous relationship, he does not want to get involved with another woman. However, on the first day at rosyth he meets Marsaili, the beautiful red headed housekeeper and the two are instantly drawn to one another. Although both try to deny it. The momentum between Brice and Marsaili is one of the central themes to the novel; it will leave you wondering whether or not they will get together.

A novel with a hero at the centre must also have a villain and in this case the villain is the nasty Mr Seton – factor and caretaker at Rosyth. Blinded by his obsession to gain back his own lands lost to the English, Seton will stop at nothing in his quest to raise funds.

This book is full of adventure and has so many nerve wracking twists and turns that I could not put it down. It is beautifully written and full of interesting historical facts and has such likeable characters, which are sometimes hard to come across in historical novels. I also loved the fact that Courtenay included the loyal dog Liath as Marsaili’s companion and guardian.
This is a superb novel with the type of rugged setting that needs a brave hero as the central character. I really enjoyed reading Highland Storms and will definitely be reading Courtenay’s two other novels. For lovers of Historical romance this is the book for you.

Interview with Nicky Wells - Author of Sophie's Turn

Hi Sarah! I’m so excited to visit your fabulous blog for an interview today.  Thank you for this great opportunity! I loved your questions so let’s have a look at my answers… Here goes:

  1. Tell me a bit about yourself and what made you get into writing

I am a really chatty person with a very active imagination.  I’ve always made up stories, for as long as I can remember.  When I was little and couldn’t go to sleep, I used to amuse myself by making up long and complicated adventure stories (featuring, naturally, myself and my best friends!).  I guess most of us do that!  But as soon as I could write, I started to set these stories down on paper.  I doubt they were elegant or even remotely eloquent narratives, but I do remember sitting on my window sill after lights-out and scribbling furiously on a small note-pad.  A few years later, that enterprise turned into hacking things out on an ancient typewriter I’d been given.  So that’s kind of where it all started… there was always this idea that I would write books.  In fact, until half-way through secondary school, I would tell any adult who asked very earnestly that I would be a writer when I grew up!

Obviously years passed and this ambition never came to much.  As a teenager, I had other things on my mind (rock music and rock musicians, mostly!) and then I had a boyfriend and then I started studying… Life kind of took over.  But when I took a work sabbatical prior to the birth of my first child, I promised myself that I would, finally, write that book I’d been thinking of for some time.  And so I did!  I had the best time doing so, and I look forward to doing it all over again!

  1. How long did it take you to write Sophie’s Turn?

Well, I had four months in which to write (before birth of baby number 1) and so that’s how long it took!  I spent about a month planning in meticulous detail my characters and my plot, and then I sat down and just…wrote! It was a fabulous experience.  I write proliferate amounts very quickly, aided by the fact that I can touch type, and I would say I averaged probably 3000 to 4000 words a day, working probably five or six hours.  Does that sound a lot?  I don’t really know, I just get carried away.  Every day, I would re-read the previous day’s work, do some rudimentary proofing and editing (and occasional re-writing) and then write some more.  So the first draft seemed to go quite quickly.  Then my first baby boy arrived and nothing much happened to the book.  It wasn’t until a few years later that I got round to re-reading it and making some substantial changes, especially to the first half.  Those changes took me another six months or so.  So total working time on Sophie’s Turn was… 10 months, give or take.  That’s probably a lot more detail than you wanted! x

  1. Tell us a bit about Sophie’s Turn and your inspiration for the book?

I’ve come to call Sophie’s Turn a ‘rock star romance’… not least because, you guessed it, one of the protagonists is a rock star.  Sophie’s Turn tells the story of one young woman and her entanglement with a rock star, the man of her dreams.  Unfortunately she is already engaged to somebody else when this romance finally enters her life, and it all gets a bit messy.  Sophie is a fundamentally nice person and the presence of two men in her life gives her all manner of emotional nightmares.  She sorts it all out eventually, although perhaps not in the way she expected!

The inspiration for the book has its roots in my residual soft spot for all things to do with rock musicians, in particular the long-haired variety with nice voices.  There are quite a few of those about!  Anyway, I was watching TV one night with my husband and some kind of long-haired male creature came on… I can’t recall who it was, might have been an actor or a rock musician.  Anyway, I obviously liked that person because I said something like, “cor, now how would a girl ever turn him down?” My husband teased me about this all evening.  And it got me thinking.  What would a girl do if she was in a steady, happy relationship… and then suddenly met her teenage idol, and he proposed?  There was the core conundrum, and it fascinated me enough to spin a story around it when I couldn’t sleep that night (on account of big baby belly!).

  1. What are your favourite books?

Generally speaking, I read almost anything but I can never resist a good chick lit book, a thriller or a good contemporary literary read.  Favourite books of all time include Catherine Alliott’s “The Old-Girl Network,”  Stephen Fry’s “Making History” and Katherine Neville’s “The Eight.”  I also like books by David Baldacci and John Grisham.  Actually, the list is pretty long….

  1. What do you like to do outside of writing?

You mean, when I’m not writing, looking after the kids, doing the housework, or volunteering as a teaching assistant…. That’s a tricky one!  My life is so busy with all the above at the moment that there’s hardly any time to do anything else.  When I do get the time, I like to read the paper in a coffee shop with a big latte or a pot of tea.  I do like to sit on a rock on the beach just watching the waves come in, and listening to the surf (that’s probably one of my favourite pass-times!).  I like travelling and exploring new places—Hamburg is on the agenda next for our family!  And… actually one thing I do do even at the moment when things are so busy is… knitting.  I do like knitting.  I’m not a great knitter, I can just about manage my knits and purls but I find it very relaxing, especially when I’m stressed.  Oh, and talking of stressed, I do have a Pilates routine that I like doing at least once a day, especially when I’ve been hunched over the laptop writing lots.

  1. What are you currently working on? Is a sequel to Sophie’s Turn planned?

Brilliant question, and I’m delighted to announce that the sequel to Sophie’s Turn is not just planned, but fully planned out and actually being written.  In fact, I started writing properly just today as I’m answering the interview questions (10 October) and I’ve made a start, setting down a proud 12,000 words in total so far.  That almost covers the first two of my 21 pages of plan (one page for each core sequence or event) so I guess you can expect a fairly hefty book again!  What happens in the sequel, you want to know?  Well, Sophie will obviously continue to feature, as will Dan and Rachel.  There is also possibly someone else but I can’t give too much away here so as not to spoil Sophie’s Turn for those readers who haven’t finished it yet!  There will be travel, and trauma, and weddings (yes, plural!) but who’s marrying whom… well, you’ll just have to wait!  I’m hoping to bring the sequel to market within a year.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Review of The Night Before Christmas by Scarlett Bailey

The Night Before Christmas is Scarlett Bailey’s debut novel and is published on the 27th October.

I absolutely adore everything to do with Christmas, so you can imagine my excitement when I was offered the chance to review this book before publication.
The novel is set in a beautifully refurbished large country house hotel in the Lake District. Lydia and her three friends from university all arrange to meet at Katy’s new house with their boyfriends and husbands for the perfect Christmas. However, as soon as they arrive a huge snow storm sets in and they find themselves snowed in for Christmas. Perfect you might think for a cosy Christmas in front of the fire? Not quite and soon tempers are flared when Lydia discovers that her ex-boyfriend is present, along with her current boyfriend and Will the gorgeous local who comes to fix the boiler is stranded with them.

I settled down to read this on one of the colder days of the month with the fire going and I really felt that I was being transported into this gorgeous Christmassy world.
The characters are so likeable and I found that each had their own good points. Lydia, the heroine, was my favourite alongside Katy whose desperate attempts to be a modern day domestic goddess had me laughing out loud.

The story is really fast paced and there is not a dull moment, from the stunning setting to the hilarious scenes, this is the ultimate Christmas read. Set over the week leading up to Christmas, it is written almost like a countdown to the big day. I also really enjoyed the way that there are lots of other sub-plots to the story that are covered in equal detail and not just glossed over.

Scarlett Bailey has written a fantastic novel and she has created a winter wonderland scene with characters that actually feel real. This book is a really stunning debut and I can’t wait to read future works by this author. Make sure that you put The Night Before Christmas on your Christmas lists this year – you will not be disappointed.

I also can’t fail to mention the beautiful cover, I love it!

Thank you to Ebury for sending me a copy of The Night Before Christmas to review.

You can follow Scarlett Bailey on twitter @ScarlettBailey or find her on facebook.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Review of Sophie's Turn by Nicky Wells

Sophie’s Turn is Nicky Wells’ debut novel and has been self published as an e-book.

I was instantly hooked from the very beginning of the novel and found the writing style to be both easy to read and gripping at the same time.

Sophie Penhalligan is a twenty eight year old journalist who is in a comfortable relationship with Accountant Tim. Sophie is waiting for Tim to propose and is worried that he is missing every opportunity. When Tim does propose it seems like everything Sophie has wanted. However, things soon get even more heated when Sophie’s bumps into her rock star crush from 80s band Tusk at the airport and the two begin a series of romantic (and hilarious) evenings together. Before Sophie realizes it she is engaged to Dan as well and is not quite sure what to do!

I loved Sophie’s character and I think that only she could end up in the situation engaged to two men and still seem to be a lovely person.
The book itself is hilarious and had me laughing out loud in places – especially when we see Tim de-slugging the garden in the middle of the night.

The story is divided into three separate sections and flits back between present day and ten years earlier when Sophie first met the band. I liked the way that the author did this as it really made me think about the story and see how Sophie and Dan’s friendship began. The book is quite a whirlwind and you will see Sophie flitting from London to New York for work and then to Paris for romantic weekends. I found that I didn’t want to put it down as I was desperate to know what would happen with Sophie.

If you love chick lit then you will adore Sophie’s Turn; it is funny, gripping and will see you laughing (and possibly crying) in places and I loved the ending which was not what I thought it would be at all. Nicky Wells has written a fantastic novel and I look forward to reading her future work.

Thank you Nicky for sending me a copy of Sophie’s Turn. You can follow Nicky on twitter @WellsNicky and visit her website:

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Giveaway: Win a copy of The Lady of the Rivers by Phillippa Gregory

To win a hardback copy of Philippa Gregory's latest novel The Lady of the Rivers please leave a comment below with your twitter or facebook name. I will pick one entrant at random. Giveaway closes 31st October. Please also follow the blog in order to be entered.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Review of Nothing but Trouble by Rachel Gibson

Nothing but Trouble is Rachel Gibson’s fourteenth novel. It is based around Mark Bressler; ex-Captain of the Chinooks hockey team who is recovering from an horrific car accident, and twin Chelsea Ross; an out of work actress who takes on the tough role of carer/assistant to Mark with the promise of a 10,000 dollar bonus…if she can stick with the job for three months.

Mark is depressed after his accident and has already scared of a number of carers who have been sent to his aid, so he imagines that it won’t take much to send Chelsea on her way too. However, he soon finds that he has met his match and Chelsea is prepared to stay and earn her bonus whatever it takes. Nothing but Trouble is a fun read; I actually really enjoyed reading about Mark and Chelsea and seeing the way that their characters got to know each other.

This is the first book by Rachel Gibson that I have read and I really enjoyed it. The plot was light and easy to read with the story mainly focusing on Chelsea and Mark and not many sub plots to distract the reader elsewhere. That said, I thought it worked very well and I became totally engrossed in finding out what would happen between them. However, I did get a bit lost at points with some of the ice hockey explanations as I don’t know very much about this sport.

Overall, I found the book to be predictable, but also quite addictive – I really needed to find out what happened in the end. It was a good read and I will look out for future releases from this author. Nothing but Trouble is part of the ‘Chinooks’ series of books and I found that they do not need to be read in sequence.

I read this as part of the Transworld Reading Challenge

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Review of Persuade Me by Juliet Archer

I am a big fan of Jane Austen and have read all of her works, so I wasn't sure what to expect from a contemporary re-telling of her last novel 'Persuasion'. However, Juliet Archer has done an absolutely fantastic job and 'Persuade Me' has all of the charm and wit of the original but with a contemporary twist that today's readers will be able to relate to.

Persuade Me follows the story of Russian Literature Lecturer Anna Elliot, her somewhat eccentric family and Rick Wentworth the gorgeous celebrity on a book signing tour of the UK, who has made his name in Australian marine biology. After an intense summer romance and bitter break up ten years earlier, Rick and Anna still harbor feelings for each other, but neither will admit it. A chance sighting of Anna with two small children leaves Rick believing that she has moved on without him, even though Anna too is still stuck in the past. Will they be able to tell each other their true feelings and will those feelings still be present once they meet again after ten years?

There are some other very strong (and funny) characters in Persuade Me including Anna’s own family; her father Sir Walter Elliot, sisters Lisa and Mona and the questionable figure Cleopatra Cle – Walter’s personal trainer and masseuse. This intricate web of characters keeps the reader busy at all times and means that there is not a dull moment in this story. I loved the way that Archer has kept the names and personalities of characters and places from the original including setting the story between Kellynch (the Elliot family seat) and Bath.

Jane Austen fans don’t be afraid to read this book; it is brilliant and does not detract from the original. I fell in love with Rick’s character even his moodiness seem to make him more appealing – the ultimate choc lit hero perhaps?! Persuade Me is easily one of my favourite books of the year and is refreshingly different form other titles available.
After reading this book, I will definitely be reading Archer’s first novel in the series ‘The Importance of being Emma’ (Juliet Archer’s modernized version of Jane Austen’s Emma – another one of my favourites!) and be looking out for future works by her.
You can find out more about Juliet Archer here:

Thank you to Choc Lit publishers for sending me a copy of ‘Persuade Me’ to review.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Review of The Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory

I am a huge fan of Philippa Gregory and was so excited to receive a copy of her latest novel The Lady of the Rivers to review.

The Lady of the Rivers is the third book in the Cousins' War trilogy and focuses on the little known life of Jacquetta Woodville; the Dowager Duchess of Bedford and mother to Elizabeth Woodville, who is the White Queen in the first title in this trilogy. I have read all three of the books now, but I found that you could really read them in any sequence.

Jacquetta was an immensely interesting figure and this book talks of her life growing up in Luxembourg (she was daughter of the Count of Luxembourg) and in British controlled France. Jacquetta marries the British controller of France the Duke of Bedford, but it is her later marriage to his squire Richard Woodville and the births of their numerous children that occupies most of the novel. We also see her relationship with Margaret of Anjou in the book and her close and vital position at Court.

The novel tells us Jacquetta’s story from her point of view. It is fictional, although includes reference to the few facts known about her life. Despite studying history, I know little about the Wars of the Roses and found this element so interesting and particularly the constant battle to keep and hold France despite the cost.

There is a strong theme of magic in the novel, as a result of Jacquetta’s family link to the goddess Melusina. I actually really enjoyed this theme and loved the way it linked in with plots and suspicions of the time. In particular, the way that the book opens with the powerful and terrifying portrayal of Joan of Arc and her subsequent trial.

This is every bit as good as the White Queen and The Red Queen and is a must read for all historical fiction fans. Jacquetta is the ultimate heroine; she is beautiful and powerful, but likeable at the same time. As with other novels by Gregory the text really comes to life and makes you feel that you’re experiencing this piece of history with the characters themselves.

Philippa Gregory has also produced a book entitled The Women of the Cousins’ War to accompany her trilogy and this is now available to purchase. Look out for my review to follow soon.

Thank you to Simon and Schuster for sending me a copy of The Lady of the Rivers to review.