Review of ‘Dead Pretty’ by Robyn Nyx

‘Dead Pretty’ by Robyn Nyx is a fast-paced, tense and exciting thriller. Normally assigned to cold cases, FBI Special Agent Dak Farrell is helping the local Salt Lake City police investigate a serial killer. A brutal and cruel series of murders is baffling the local PD, and they need Dak’s expertise to stop the killer before anyone else dies. C.J. Johnson is a reality TV star, back in town when her show gets cancelled. She is a mortician who uses her skills on TV to make the dead look good again for their open casket viewings. Yes, it’s a truly bizarre concept, but so is much of the weird and wonderful TV these days. Neither of them is looking for anything serious, but will a fling be enough? As they become closer, CJ’s life is in danger. It seems the ‘Artist’ serial killer does not appreciate her reconstructive work on his victims.

‘Dead Pretty’ is a well written and exquisitely plotted story. It is unusual and perplexing and kept me hooked, as I tried to solve the mystery. I didn’t guess the outcome at all. I enjoyed finding out Dak and CJ’s backstories. It made them much more interesting, and I could see why they were the people they were. Their connection was powerful and extremely hot.

‘Dead Pretty’ is crying out to be made into a movie. It is head and shoulders above many of the scripts we see brought to our screens. Highly recommended.

I was given this ARC for review.

Review of ‘Hazard Pay’ by Anne Hagan

Rachel needs a job and due to potential difficulties with her work visa, she’s willing to take the first decent job offered to her. But what is the job? It’s all a bit of a mystery and she can’t help but do a bit of snooping. Is she getting in over her head? 

This is a great mystery story with an unexpected twist. I have read just about everything Anne Hagan has written and have never been disappointed. She has the knack of writing the most ingenious mysteries and I alway look forward to reading her next story. This one hit the spot. 

I was given this ARC to review.

Review of ‘Her Royal Happiness’ by Lola Keeley

What happens when a Princess of the Realm meets a feisty education specialist who has no time for the Royal Family? Sparks – that’s what! Princess Alice has never met anyone quite like Sara, a south London single mum with a mind of her own. When it become clear that Sara can help Alice’s family with a delicate matter, the pair pretend to date in order to keep the secret from the press. But will they be able to keep it strictly business – or will their feelings for each other make that impossible?

First of all I must thank Lola Keeley for writing a beautiful love story with the lowest angst possible. In these stressful times that’s exactly the kind of book I want to be reading. It made me smile and it made me very happy. I loved Princess Alice and Sara. Alice was strong, capable and loyal. Duty was important to her and she had spent her life doing the right thing. But she realises that there is more to life than duty. Spending time with Sara made her see that. Sara was accomplished, clever and principled. She was also a fantastic mum. Would she be willing to change her life for Alice? It would mean rethinking everything, and taking her daughter on a different path too. I enjoyed seeing her work through that decision. 

Lola Keeley made everything seem so real. She made the Royal Family accessible. In this story we see that wealth and status do not shield anyone from problems. I loved every minute of it. The love story was sweet and tender, with humour and poignancy. Ms Keeley was on top of her game.  Highly recommended.

I was given this ARC for review.

Review of ‘Two For Sorrow’ by Nicola Upson

‘Two For Sorrow’ by Nicola Upson is an immersive and beautifully written Josephine Tey mystery, set in 1930s London. Josephine is back in London researching her next book on the baby farmers of the early part of the century. Amelia Sachs and Annie Walters were executed for their crimes, but Miss Tey is more interested in the aftermath of their crimes. How others were also affected. While staying at her club in town, Josephine is drawn into a case investigated by her friend Detective Inspector Archie Penrose. Danger lurks all around and the pair must find the killer before it is too late.

There’s a depth to the story that you don’t see coming, and I must admit it took my breath away. The author weaves a story of personal tragedy, with a wider stain on society. And the years have not wiped away that stain. 

London of that era was so perfectly described, as Josephine meets with her London theatre friends and mixes with high society. There’s plenty of name dropping- which is an absolute delight. We saw the lives of women of different classes and the choices they had to make. And we also saw the consequences of those decisions.

Nicola Upson cleverly ties in the tiny threads of her story and brings it all together with such skill. 

I was left profoundly moved by the stories within ‘Two For Sorrow’. It’s a stunningly well written and researched story and would make a wonderful film/tv adaptation.

I was given this ARC for review.

Review of ‘Enchanted Autumn’ by Ursula Klein

‘Enchanted Autumn’ is an engaging romance, full of magic, interesting characters and the perfect setting. Hazel is a Salem witch – and a real one at that. With a black cat, her very own broom stick and a penchant for potion-making, she is proud of who she is. That is until English academic, Dr Elizabeth Cowrie, arrives in town. The history researcher has an interest in the Salem witch trials, but does not believe in magic. In fact she scoffs at the very idea that it may exist. Hazel’s attraction to her is going to be a problem, as she must decide if she’s willing to give up her true self in pursuit of love. 

I loved that the story was set in Salem. The author managed to weave some historical details from the witch trials into this modern romance. But it was ultimately about the triumph of magic, of love. Hazel was an astute businesswoman, but still managed to stay true to her roots. Her witchcraft was important to her and to the whole community, even if some of them were not aware of her true nature. Elizabeth may have been a sceptic, but she was kind, passionate and intelligent. I adored the ‘Britishisms’ scattered throughout the story. They were spot-on. I also enjoyed the writing style, which pulled me into their world, a world I’d like to revisit. 

I was given this ARC to review.

Review of ‘Velocity’ by Gun Brooke

I love it when I find a new series to obsess about. ‘Velocity’ is the second book in Gun Brooke’s Dennamore Scrolls series, but it can be read as a standalone too. I haven’t read the first book, ‘Yearning’,  but I definitely need to now. ‘Velocity’ is the story of a town and its discovery of an alien background they didn’t know existed. Holly Crowe is astounded to find alien artefacts whilst out taking photographs one day and is determined to find out more. Claire Gordon, a local mechanic with a love of science fiction finally finds some meaning and purpose when she too is let in on the secret. As they join others everything begins to make sense. But will it lead them into danger and peril? 

This was an intriguing story, with superb world-building and imagination. I love sci-fi and this hit all the right buttons for me. There was love, romance and family too. The group were trying to solve a puzzle and I was completely engrossed in their journey towards discovery. The blend of different characters worked extremely well. We had some sapphic characters and their relationships, but we also had tight family bonds and friendship. I want to find out what happens next to them and can’t wait for the next instalment. 

I was given this ARC for review.

Review of ‘Tight Race’ by Elizabeth Sims

The Lillian Byrd mystery series by Elizabeth Sims has been a favourite of mine, since my early days of reading WLW fiction. I was delighted to find that there was a new book out and jumped at the chance to read it. ‘Tight Race’ finds Lillian working as media liaison for mayoral candidate and retired cop,  Leon Sorrel. Navigating the cut-throat world of local politics whilst conducting an affair with co-worker and socialite Marie Chamberlain was never going to work out well. When a double murder puts Lillian under suspicion, she has to find answers before the whole campaign is threatened. Dirty cops and even dirtier newspaper columnists add to the mix, making the investigation seedier by the minute. 

First of all, I love Lillian Byrd as a main character. She is unconventional, daring and the kind of person you want on your side in any fight. She takes risks and I worry about her. ‘Tight Race’ was a cracking story and kept me reading well into the night. Elizabeth Sims writes in a way that flows naturally. Her style draws the reader in, and we feel as if we are right there with Lillian. I found the story intriguing and loved the Dertroit setting. Getting to know a city and its neighbourhoods through the character’s eyes is a true skill. I really enjoyed it and hope there will be many more mysteries to solve in this series.

I was given this ARC to review.

My Best Books of 2021!

This year has been another difficult one, but authors have stepped up and given us some amazing stories. I struggled to whittle my favourite books of the year down to a reasonable number. There was no way I could stop at a Top Ten, but I managed a Top Fifteen. These are the books that made my year, and I highly recommend each and every one. Here they are, listed in no particular order:

  1. The Tell Tale by Clare Ashton

2. A Corruption of Blood by Ambrose Parry

3. The Island Between Us by Wendy Hudson 

4. The Fair Botanists by Sara Sheridan 

5. Ignis by KJ

6. The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman

7. Everyone In This Room Will Someday Be Dead by Emily R Austin

8. The Rose Code by Kate Quinn

9. The End Of Men by Christina Sweeney-Baird

10. Her Last Request by Mari Hannah

11. The Dead Of Winter by Nicola Upson

12. Song Of Serenity by Brey Willows

13.The Appeal by Janice Hallett

14. Katharine Parr, The Sixth Wife by Alison Weir

15. Shiver by Allie Reynolds

Review of ‘Humbug’ by Amanda Radley

‘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.

I was given this ARC to review.

Review of ‘Highland Whirl’ by Anna Larner

‘Highland Whirl’ by Anna Larner is the third book I’ve read by this particular author and I’ve loved every one. Although this is a follow up to ‘Highland Fling’, there is no need to have read the previous story as it works as a standalone too. In this novel we spend time with Roxanne Barns, best friend of Eve, who is paying a long anticipated visit to Inverness, and Alice Campbell, stepdaughter of Moira, Eve’s partner. The pair did not hit it off at all when they first met in Leicester a few years before, so when Alice is asked to host Roxanne for the night, neither are happy about it. Roxanne’s apparent nonchalance regarding women and relationships annoys Alice no end. And Roxanne finds Alice stuck-up and immature. Can either of them get past that now? As a growing attraction builds it becomes more difficult to keep to their own corners. 

I was so glad to be back in Newland, with Eve, Moira and their neighbours, especially Angus and Elizabeth. Life had moved on and there were new issues to deal with involving all of them. The tension between Roxanne and Alice was skilfully done, as was the story involving the whole group. The writing was beautifully descriptive and one could almost imaging being in the Highlands with them. The setting was perfect and the characters exceptionally well imagined. Anna Larner writes in a gentle, kind and loving way, and I look forward to every book she brings out. A wonderful story.

I was given this ARC for review.