Review of ‘It started With A Kiss’ by Clare Lydon

‘It started With A Kiss’ by Clare Lydon is a smile-inducing sapphic romance, with passion, sexual tension, and the author’s trademark British humour. Gemma and Skye meet in a bar in Cornwall and share the most amazing kiss either have ever experienced. But the strangers part, never expecting to see each other again. When they later end up working together, both agree that business and pleasure don’t mix well. But can they keep to their promise? With an attraction this strong it’s going to be a tall order.

I loved the connection between Skye and Gemma. It was intense, powerful and hot. Their chemistry was off the scale. But Gemma especially was determined that they could not let their feelings progress to the next level as long as they were working together. It caused tension between them – and not always of the sexual variety. 

As ever, Clare Lydon writes characters we can identify with. I could see where Gemma was coming from, but I so wanted her to change her mind. Skye was a woman dealing with hurt, but ready to find a way out of it. They were the right people at the right time for each other. They just had to get to the point that they could see that. This was a passionate, romantic, feel-good story. I loved it.

I was given this ARC to review.

Review of ‘Death In A Blackout’ by Jessica Ellicott

‘Death In A Blackout’ by Jessica Ellicott is the story of Billie Harkness, a vicar’s daughter from the quiet and sleepy village of Barton St. Giles, who finds herself catapulted into the middle of a murder mystery during World War Two. When tragedy strikes in her own life, Billie flees north to Hull and the kind offer of hospitality from a distant cousin. But Hull is at the forefront of the bombings and before long Billie finds death all around her. When she enlists in the new Women’s Constabulary, she feels compiled to investigate a death that she is sure was murder. The local police do not agree. Billie must find a way to the truth, while keeping under the radar. Female police officers are not exactly popular with everyone and some will do anything to discredit them.

I love mystery novels set in the Second World War. Jessica Ellicott has managed to capture the flavour of the time and the historical detail is well done. Through Billie’s eyes we see the different lives lead by those in the countryside and the coastal cities. We also get to see the different lives led by those of little means, and the rich who think they can carry on as before. But it becomes apparent that life is changing for everyone.

Billie is a resilient and strong woman, but until she is faced with a dead body and a mystery she doesn’t realise it. I liked seeing her change. This was a good story and I am glad to see that the author plans more in this series. 

I was given this ARC to review.

Review of ‘Mystery At Lovelace Manor’ by Clare Chase

‘Mystery At Lovelace Manor’ by Clare Chase is the eighth in this particular series, but the first for me. It was easy to catch up with the main character Eve Mallow and the backstory of her life and the village. Eve has volunteered to help at Lovelace Sunday, a festival celebrating the romantic history of the the manor and its past inhabitants. But not everything goes to plan. When famous TV historian Cammie Harington is involved in a shocking ‘accident’ Eve feels compelled to investigate. Who could possibly have been involved? And why?

I liked the character of Eve. She played an integral part in her community and was determined and fearless. The mystery was fascinating and kept me interested. There were so many secrets being kept in the village and at the manor, that it was impossible for me to work out whodunnit. Clare Chase has an engaging writing style and has an affinity for her characters. She makes them come alive. I enjoyed it and look forward to reading more by this author. 

I was given this ARC to review.

Review of ‘Let Love Be Enough’ by Robyn Nyx

With ‘Let Love Be Enough’ Robyn Nyx has taken her characters into some of the most depraved corners of society and brought them out the other side. Madison Ford is an award winning journalist whose work ensures she has enemies all over the world. Her articles require her to take risks and come into contact with the worst elements of society. Elodie Fontaine is Hollywood’s darling and at the top of her career. But it is her humanitarian work that interests Madison. When she gets a chance to interview the star, she finds an attraction she was not expecting. An investigation into organ trafficking brings them together and with the danger comes a closeness that neither can deny. 

The story is well written, engaging and powerful. The subject matter deals with disturbing issues and extremely distasteful people. Nyx shows how damaged some people are by the start they get in life. Some escape, others do not.  There is appalling violence, and those who spiral further into the darkest depths show no mercy.

The light comes from the growing relationship between Madison and Elodie. They are passionate, intense and reach extreme heights of sexual compatibility. Finding your person will do that. I really enjoyed their story.

I was given this ARC to review.

Review of ‘Georgetown Glen: Queermunity Living At Its Finest’ by Annette Mori

‘Georgetown Glen: Queermunity Living At Its Finest’ by Annette Mori is a book you’ll want to devour. Lucy and Bea buy an old ghost town, with the hope of turning the ramshackle old buildings into a retirement village for sapphic ladies of a certain age. As they make plans, they hire Fi, an expert in architectural restoration, and Saville an electrician. With the help of Lucy’s niece they begin to knock the old town into shape – until the resident ghost objects. As the group are forced to deal with the spirit in their midst, they uncover secrets and start to investigate the history of Georgetown. And there might even be time for a love story in there too.

Mori has a winner on her hands here. Her trademark humour shines through, and she has managed to weave a fascinating tale encompassing love, friendship and sapphic history. I loved the multigenerational nature of the story and the historical aspects too. I think Saville was my favourite character. She tried to come across as confident and a player.  But she wasn’t. She was caring and sensitive underneath it all. I love the fact that there can be many more stories to tell with this group of characters and those who end up living there. 

I was given this ARC to review.

Review of ‘An English Garden Murder’ by Katie Gayle

‘An English Garden Murder’ by Katie Gayle is the story of Julia, a recent divorcee whose husband has left her for the gardener. Now living in the Cotswolds, Julia is trying to move on and start a new life. A quiet life. But when a body is found buried in her garden a quiet life is the last thing she is going to get. The local police force is spread extremely thin, so Julia finds herself investigating the murder – and becomes embroiled in more than she bargained for. As she gets to know her neighbours, and becomes mum to a wayward puppy, the ex-social worker finds her skills from a previous life in London very useful. Will she be able to catch the killer before anyone else gets hurt? 

Katie Gayle has a delightful touch, marrying the quaintness of village life with humour and kindness. Julia is a likeable character, with determination and grit. She wants to become a part of the community – just not in quite the way it turns out. She has seen everything in her life in London social work, so is not phased when death turns up on her doorstep. This charming and well-written cosy mystery has an ideal setting, believable characters and the potential for many more stories. I really enjoyed it and was delighted to find that there’s more Katie Gayle books in the offing. 

I was given this ARC for review.

Review of ‘Cause of Death’ by Anna Legat

‘Cause Of Death’ by Anna Legat is the third in the Shires Mysteries Series. I haven’t read the previous books, but had no problem jumping in at this point. It can certainly be read as a standalone or as part of the series. 

Maggie Kaye and Sam Dee are part of a group of villagers trying to save the local meadows from developers. When one of the protesters is killed, they take it upon themselves to investigate. Maggie has some very specific skills which I found a lovely surprise. Sam has a legal background and between the two of them they are a formidable duo. Maggie needs Sam to temper her more elaborate schemes to get information, and he needs her emotionally.

I really liked that they could go off and do their own investigations and then come  back together to collaborate. The author skilfully managed to weave various threads in this well written and plotted mystery. It was a corker of a story, with a believable setting and characters I enjoyed spending time with. 

I was given this ARC to review.

Review of ‘Elizabeth of York – The Last White Rose’ by Alison Weir

‘Elizabeth of York’ by Alison Weir is the story of Elizabeth, the last White Rose, as thereafter the houses of York and Lancaster joined to become the House of Tudor. Elizabeth has lived her entire life in fear of one political upheaval after another. Her young life is interrupted by the need to seek sanctuary as her father fights to hold onto his throne. On his death her future looks uncertain. Will she be forced into marriage with her uncle?  Or will she finally meet and marry the Lancaster rival to the throne, Henry Tudor? The difficult choices she must make will not only affect her own life, but those of her family and the entire country. 

Alison Weir fills in a lot of the backstory using conversations between the young Elizabeth and her mother. And this was certainly needed, as there are many players in this story and their relationships to each other are extremely important. There is a list of those involved and how they relate to each other at the beginning of the book and I found myself having to refer to that several times. 

We are reminded that very young children are but pawns in royal households at this time. They are married off at very young ages and sent away from their families. Power seems to trump close and loving familial relationships, especially in the eyes of Elizabeth’s parents. 

The author managed to make Elizabeth very real to me. I could imagine her fears as well as the joyful moments in her life. Alison Weir gets into the heads of her main characters, giving her readers a way into the past. Elizabeth had a  lifetime of being a part of, and watching the machinations of, those intent on power at all costs. Her fortunes would rise and fall, depending on how the political situation changed.

I found her story fascinating. Weir pulled me into Elizabeth’s world, and transported me to a time and place vital to the future of the monarchy. Her knowledge on the subject is astounding and I learned so much about an amazing woman. 

I was given this ARC to review.

Review of ‘Cold Blood’ by Genevieve McCluer

‘Cold Blood’ by Genevieve McCluer is a vampire story set in Toronto. I’ve read her previous books set in the city and have enjoyed them very much. This is the story of Kalila, a vampire seeking revenge for the murder of her wife and son, and her own turning. A newcomer to Toronto, she must first find out where he is hiding – and for that she needs the help of an information broker. Dorenia has a somewhat similar tale and seeks revenge on her nemesis too. By working together will they be able to find peace, and maybe something more?

I like Genevieve McClure’s writing style. It is fast and immediate and draws me in. I loved the nod to a previous novel ‘Olivia’, and to some recognisable areas of the city. She makes monsters sympathetic characters and gives them entirely plausible lives alongside the other residents of Toronto. I like this world she has invented.

I was given this ARC to review.

Review of ‘Two-Way Murder’ by E.C.R. Lorac

‘Two-Way Murder’ by E.C.R. Lorac was not published in the author’s lifetime, but thankfully the British Library has published it as part of the Crime Classics series. A mysterious disappearance the previous year is still being discussed as the local ball in Fording’s takes place. When a body is found on the road that very night, Waring of the C.I.D. is called in to investigate. It will take more than just a flair for investigation to unravel the mystery as the locals close ranks to keep their secrets. 

‘Two-Way Murder’ is a puzzling mystery and one that confounded my own detection skills no end. I enjoyed the careful and methodical way Waring sought his answers. The author’s skills lie in excellent storytelling, exquisite characterisation and misdirection. I loved wallowing in the Golden Age of Crime with E.C.R Lorac, a writer deserving of more recognition.

I was given this ARC to review.