‘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.
‘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 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.
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.
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:
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
‘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.
‘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.
‘Darcy Comes Home’ is a at first glance a second chance romance story. Darcy was sent away as a teenager to a Christian conversion camp and has not seen the love of her life for twenty five years. Now she’s back home and unsure what Angie will make of her return. There are plenty of added complications, with family issues and a myriad of other problems to deal with. Will the couple find a future together or will those other matters mean it can’t work out?
For me this wasn’t primarily a romance. Yes, it is a part of it, but it makes up a smaller part of the book. There are serious issues and they are not at all lightweight. I found the story engaging from the start and I really liked the descriptions of the village, what goes on there and the people. The two main characters are interesting and I appreciated the time and effort that went into the other characters too. It was certainly more of an ensemble story.
What’s a Muse to do when her much-anticipated peaceful break is under threat? Calliope Ardalides is the eldest of the nine Muses, and is responsible for arbitrating arguments between the gods and answering for their failures to the humans who complain. Her haven of serenity is a small Scottish village, where the Temple of the Muses is situated. But when an American businesswoman lodges plans for an adventure park right next door, Calliope’s hopes of relaxation and calm are shattered. Despite a powerful attraction neither women appear ready to yield. Can they each get what they want? And will they be able to resist the pull of something more?
I’ve been looking forward to this, the first in a new series set in the Afterlife Inc world. The first trilogy was excellent and my favourite series of the past five years. This time we are with the Muses, and they are just as compelling. Calliope is a talented musician and singer, but has been so caught up in the other aspects of her job, that her artistic side has taken a back seat. Being in Scotland lets her enjoy music again, but the threat to her peace from Jordan James and her plans is worrying. Although she’s used to seeing an issue from both sides at work, it’s more difficult in this case. She’s a kind, thoughtful and sensitive soul and I really liked her.
Jordan wasn’t the big, bad wolf, even though she wanted to build next to the Temple. I could see her point of view, and it would certainly help the local community. But she had to see the whole picture, and Calliope was the person to help her do that. Their attraction was intense and powerful, but it was also healing for both of them.
Brey Willows describes the Scottish countryside perfectly and makes me feel as if I’m there. She sees past the surface and allows the reader a peek of that too. I love the marrying of old and new, the mythology and the present. The story shows wonderful imagination, and I never tire of reading what she has come up with . She knows her characters inside out and allows the reader to become part of their lives.
‘Song of Serenity’ is a stunning story. I highly recommend it.
‘Pathway To Love’ is the latest in the Rivers Community Romance Series. I’ve enjoyed the series and I’m always keen to be back with the characters. In this book Dr. Bennett Anderson joins the hospital as the new head of the Sports Medicine Department. With no plans to extend her stay beyond a year, she doesn’t want any ties in her romantic endeavours either. Dr Courtney Valentine is intent on learning as much as she can in her chosen profession , before settling on a specialty. And she wants no-strings in her love life. Will they be able to stick to their goals, or will romance have other ideas?
The thing that stood out was just how much was packed into one day in this story. The meeting between Ben and Court was just the start of a very busy day, full of drama and intense feelings. I liked both characters, and as with every other Rivers novel, I loved getting to spend time with the Rivers family and the staff in the hospital. I loved the medical elements of the story, and it is obviously true to life and expertly written, coming from a real-life surgeon . The romance did work for me but I was surprised at the pace. I can certainly believe they would fall in love quickly, but the ending was abrupt and I would have liked another chapter or two – even an epilogue. A good story.