‘Humbug’ is the Christmas cuddle we all want and need this festive season. Once again Amanda Radley has given us characters we can love, a gentle romance and a setting we never knew we needed. Ellie Pearce is ‘Christmas Girl’ to everyone in the company she works for. Although an accomplished and brilliant statistician, she has, through circumstance, ended up in the marketing department of a recruitment firm. It’s not her ideal job. The CEO of the company, Rosalind Caldwell, is the archetypal Ice Queen – or is she? She may like to come across that way in business but as Ellie soon discovers, there’s a heart of gold underneath. When Rosalind is left in the lurch a few weeks before the big Christmas party, she needs someone to organise it from scratch – and who better than Christmas Girl? Despite the fact that Ellie has never been a PA or organised anything in her life, she is promoted upstairs, to the very top floor of a Canary Wharf building. Her extreme fear of heights is just the start of her worries. A growing crush on the boss is the last thing she needs, but try telling that to her heart.
This was a lovely story, full of kindness and joy. It was fun to see the thawing of an ice queen as the temperatures plunged in the corporate centre of London. Rosalind was firm, but fair. She needed the right person to let her see that love was possible. Ellie was completely adorable – the kind of friend we’d all like to have. Her enthusiasm was infectious and I couldn’t help but get into the Christmas spirit with her. This sweet story will open your eyes to the wonder of Christmas. I loved it.
‘The Tell Tale’ by Clare Ashton is outstanding. My book of the year by a long way. Lady Sophie Melling is lady of the manor, but the men of the village will not accept it. Her former schoolfriend Beth Harris is back in the village after years away. Like most people she has a secret, and when nasty notes begin appearing it looks like her secret may be revealed to all. Who is leaving the notes? And what does it have to do with unexplained events twenty years ago? As the tension builds, a sense of foreboding clings to the village and its inhabitants.
This is the best novel Clare Ashton has written. My jaw dropped again and again as the shocking realities were revealed. The exquisite writing, beautiful descriptions, and insight into the welsh language and people had me mesmerised. I could feel the fear of the villagers as they received their vicious notes, and the all-pervading abuse of power by certain men of the village. But I could also feel the growing confidence of the women as they tried to be true to themselves and fight against it all. I cannot recommend this novel highly enough. If you only read one book this year, let it be ‘The Tell Tale’. You will not regret it.
‘Dead Lez Walking’ is exciting, tense, funny and touching. When an outbreak of a mysterious virus hits Perth, the hospital Taren works in takes the brunt. As a lockdown is enforced, she and her colleagues must find a way to survive – or become victims themselves. This is no ordinary virus. As zombies wander the corridors looking for their next meal, surgeon Joy wakes to find her world turned upside down. One by one, the survivors find each other and with the help of some medical knowledge, sheer determination and more than a hint of gallows humour, they battle against the odds.
G Benson’s books are normally funny, romantic and exciting. And ‘Dead Lez Walking’ is all of those things – but with gore and light horror too. It was so well written that she had me believing this could really happen. She made it seem so real. That was down to great characters, snappy, witty dialogue and a story with pace. All throughout I could not help but think it would make a terrific film.
Regan and Kylie have been friends forever. It seems everyone else can see they are perfect for each, but they claim they can’t see it. Chemistry teacher Regan decides an experiment is in order. If there is chemistry between them, then her little test should show it. However much they deny it, every little touch sends shivers up their spines. But are either of them willing to risk the friendship for more?
‘Chemistry Lessons’ is sweet and has the most adorable characters. They were the perfect couple and were closer than most romantic partners, but just couldn’t see what was right in front of them. The mention of characters from Jae’s other books was fantastic. The connections are wonderful and make the reader feel as if they are in on a little secret. It makes them feel a part of this interconnected family of characters. The story was heartwarming and made me so happy.
If a writer can make their readers feel that way, especially in these unusual times, I am thankful. I really appreciate that Jae does not feel the need to throw too many spanners in the works. Low angst is what I want and I can rely on her every time. Just perfect.
I have read every book in Clare Lydon’s London Romance series and enjoyed every one. ‘Big London Dreams’ is the best so far. As well as love and romance, we are taken back to the 1950s, and to a time where girls were expected to find a nice young man and settle down. For Eunice Starling and Joan Hart that’s not so easy. Neither have been able to find a man that remotely interested them, and when they fall in love everything seems to click. But this was the late fifties and it took more than love to keep them together. Sixty years later they meet again and tell their story. Will it be happily ever after for them at last? You’ll have to read this wonderful book to find out.
‘Big London Dreams’ was the most heart-wrenching love story. A story of it’s time. But it was also joyful and heartwarming. Clare Lydon told the most amazing tale of true love, where time could not diminish the passion the women felt for each other. It was also beautifully written and the descriptions of London were so evocative. I could imagine it all so well. So much effort was put into making it just right. Although I knew there would be heartbreak, I could not stop reading. I knew that love would conquer all, and Ms Lydon did not disappoint. The fact that it tied in with my favourite romance series and the friends I had come to love, made it all the more special. Highly recommended.
‘Do You Know Dorothy?’ is part of a series, following the lives and loves of gay people in New York City in the fifties. We follow Al Huffman as she builds on her career and tries to save the night club she helps run with her friend Max. She still pines for her soul mate Juliana, but here she learns more about the secret world of lesbians and gay men in that era. She also finds out things about herself and how she feels comfortable as a lesbian. Not that following the ‘rules’ comes easy.
The story was interesting from a historical perspective, in that we find out how gay people lived, and how they were treated. The fight for equal rights was in its infancy, and in this novel Vanda explores the movement through her characters. Attitudes were different, even between one minority group and another. Although there is some romance in the story, I get the feeling this will be explored more fully in the next book in the series.
‘Lying With Lions’ is a historical family saga, starting in the Edwardian era. Agnes Ashford is an archivist for the Bryant family, an important and influential family, thanks in part to the money from Lady Helen’s dowry. Whilst combing through the family’s papers she uncovers a secret. With this information she becomes invaluable to Lady Helen and her life changes for the better. But in order to hold onto that life Agnes must make uncomfortable choices.
I enjoyed reading about Agnes and her life, in a time where single women without family had difficult choices to make to survive. We see how society changes during the Edwardian era and into the new era of George V. The family Agnes works for has to change too. Their lives have been pampered and regimented for centuries, but the new era begins to break down the barriers between the classes. And the Bryants and Davenports were not prepared for that. The romantic elements of the story were handed well, as they were written with subtlety and a gentle touch. There’s a gothic touch to the story too and this added an extra element.
Golden Sea is the second in the Mapmaking Magicians series by Emma Sterner-Radley. I’ve been eagerly awaiting its release, as I loved the first book, Silver Beasts. The four friends are back at the Hall of Explorers, but things have changed. The King is determined to carry on with his agenda and is now less willing to stick to the original plan. No wonder the students are worried. As well as dealing with their forthcoming dangerous mission, their emotions cause them further confusion. Dealing with them will not be easy.
Wonderfully descriptive language takes the reader into the world of Cavarra, a world that has been meticulously created. I loved how the story opened out and in some ways things became clearer. We learned more about the history and backstory, but the author also teased us with tantalising titbits of adventures to come. It’s a YA story, but its appeal goes far beyond that audience. The fantasy, magic and mystery within the story makes it a great read for a much wider audience. I really enjoyed it and look forward to the next in the series.
‘Wrong Number, Right Woman’ by Jae is one of those stories absolutely guaranteed to put a smile on your face. When Denny receives a text from a woman she doesn’t know asking for advice, she’s stumped. But also intrigued. As texts fly back and forth between the two women, they begin to get to know each other, in an anonymous and therefore stress-free manner. Eliza desperately needed an opinion on the right outfit to wear to yet another date organised through the latest dating app. She wants to find the one, the person who makes her feel the way they tell it in the movies. It’s never happened yet and she’s beginning to think it never will. Her messaging with Denny is a lot more interesting than any date she’s been on. But Eliza is straight, and surely the person of her dreams can’t be a woman. Or can it?
Denny and Eliza are two of the most adorable characters ever. They both have big hearts, are there for their friends and family, and deserve to be happy. I loved them both so much. And I wanted them to be happy. I had my fingers and toes crossed the whole time I was reading this book. It is a beautifully told romance about seeing the real person behind the fronts we all put up. It’s about falling for someone unexpectedly and realising that love comes in different guises. I adored it.
Shivers ran down my spine reading this book. The author, Christina Sweeney-Baird, could never have known just how prophetic she was being when she wrote it, but it is astounding how much she has predicted. The world is in the grip of a viral pandemic that only affects men. Dr Amanda MacLean tried to warn the authorities, but no-one was willing to listen. Men soon realise the folly of ignoring her warnings as they begin to die. What follows are first-person accounts by women from all over the world, documenting the fall of the male-dominated patriarchal society we knew, and the rise of a female-led one. The storytelling is wonderful – perfectly paced, with an immediacy and emotional intensity that made me gasp. She amps up the tension, opening out the story as the virus spreads, and lets us see how society could be if women were in charge. If I had read this last year, before the pandemic, it would still have been a great story, but this year makes it even more so. I could not put it down. ‘The End Of Men’ deserves to be the hit book of the year.