Review of ‘The Scandal’ by Mari Hannah

‘The Scandal’ is a gripping story from the start, as a terrified woman flees for her life, frantically trying to evade her pursuer. I could feel her fear. But it is the investigation into another death that impacts DS Frankie Oliver and she finds herself in conflict with her boss, DI David Stone. The realism, be it of story, character or setting, really struck me.

Mari Hannah captures the emotions of her characters with such insight and precision. I appreciated that the police never lost sight of the victims and their families. I also can’t get enough of the North East as described in Ms Hannah’s novels. She moves from the beauty of the Northumberland countryside to the modern, vibrant city of Newcastle. This is the first of the Stone and Oliver series that I’ve read but I was so impressed that I’ll have to go and read the other two. An excellent read and highly recommended.

I was given this ARC for review by Netgalley and Orion.

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Review of ‘Perfect Partners’ by Maggie Cummings

‘Perfect Partners’ is set in the world of K9 training for those in law enforcement. Sara is an instructor who is dedicated to her job and is not looking for a relationship – especially with a cop. Izzy finds herself with the chance of doing her dream job – she just has to pass the demanding course. The story was sweet and romantic and I loved the blossoming of something tender and beautiful between the two women. Maggie Cummings has an amazing talent for writing characters I easily fall for and she brings them to life with such panache. I adored the dogs too and finding out how they were trained and paired with their human partners was fascinating. Chase was just a darling! This is a feel-good tale that left me with a smile on my face. Highly recommended. 

I was given this ARC for review by Bold Strokes Books and Netgalley.

Review of ‘The Book Witch’ by Annette Mori

‘The Book Witch’ is funny, quirky and full of surprising twists. The first book in the series ‘The Book Addict’ introduced us to Elle and Tanya, who are now all loved-up. When Imara, a book witch with the power to bring characters to life, appears in town things begin to get exciting again. She wants to help Jai, a local teacher, find love at last. But she needs her friends to help. Things are never that simple though and enemies, old and new, try to put a spoke in the machine. 

Ms Mori uses some unique plot devices to take this story in very unexpected directions. Fans of the author will be thrilled to find some of their favourite characters from other series turn up. This really worked for me. In a book about the supernatural I was was surprised to find myself suspending belief and really going with the premise. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if book witches did exist and our beloved characters came to life? This was exactly the kind of book I wanted to read and I salute the imagination of Annette Mori. 

I was given this ARC for review.

Review of ‘Cupid’s Bow’ by Karen F Williams

‘Cupid’s Bow’ is a sweet, funny, short romance with endearing characters. Kay Westscott is a novelist winding down after a busy lesbian fiction conference. She meets a beautiful woman in the bar of her hotel where the woman is planning on attending a lesbian speed dating event that night. When they get talking it soon becomes apparent that there is an attraction between them – but will either of them take the initiative? 

I really enjoy short stories and am always delighted to find new ones – especially lesfic ones. This one is a lovely story of unexpected attraction and the hope of more. It poses the question of whether one can fall in love at first sight. And whether you can make a life changing decision based on that one meeting. I loved it. Karen F Williams is an excellent writer with imaginative flair and I always look out for her work. I am happy to add ‘Cupid’s Bow’ to my collection.

I was given this ARC for review by Netgalley and Bold Strokes Books.

Review of ‘Deuce’ by Jen Silver

What a wonderful story! ‘Deuce’ is the story of Jay, ex-professional tennis player, and her life after the disappearance at sea of her lover, Charley. Forced to go on without her, she brings up their child and starts a new career. But she isn’t really happy. Charley meanwhile is living in the Faroe Islands with a new name and no memory of her life before. When she starts to remember, the lives of so many people are about to be up-ended. 

The story is so well told. It has love, unexpected family complications, passion and surprises. I could not put it down. I wanted to know what happened next to these characters. They felt real and I began to care about them. They each had to face the fact that time does not stand still and people change. Sometimes that means accepting differences and sometimes it means putting yourself in their shoes. Jen Silver has a talent for crafting characters and storylines that really resonate. She subtly weaves real events into her work and that makes the reader feel more engaged. ‘Deuce’ may be my favourite of her novels so far. 

I was given this ARC for review.

Review of ‘Colette’ by R.D DeLisle

‘Colette’ is the story of a woman facing her past and finally deciding what she really wants in life. The main character, Colette, moves back to Paris for a while after many years in the States. She sees her sister for the first time since she left and painful memories begin to surface. How she deals with them and the all too real disturbing presence of her brother-in-law form the basis of the novel. But it is about more. It is about love, desire and admitting the truth. It is also about realising that sometimes we have to put ourselves first, even after a lifetime of being there for others.

I liked the fact that R.D. DeLisle chose to focus on older women, older lesbians. That in itself is very unusual. I have read her first book, ‘Miranda’, and it is useful though not entirely necessary to read it to understand some of the background to ‘Colette’. In some ways this book was gentle and romantic, but there is also a storyline which deals with a figure from her past and that is quite brutal. Colette chose to deal with this in a particular way that I found infuriating but it was true to the character. She wouldn’t have done it any other way. I liked the story and the concentration on the more mature woman.

I was given this ARC to review.

Review of ‘Spinning Tales’ by Brey Willows

Maggie McShay leads a boring life, in a boring apartment, with a boring job – and with a cat who doesn’t seem to like her. What she wants is some magic in her life and when she answers an ad to look after a fairy tale cottage it appears that things may be looking up for her.  The story is of Maggie and her friends as well as a world of fairy stories. It is told in a way that you will not doubt this place really exists. As they work together to save the world from evil villains, Maggie finds out much more about herself and this new world than she could ever have imagined. 

From the minute she answers the advert you feel the excitement along with her. We learn as she does and it’s fascinating. I adored Maggie. She was curious, sweet and feisty. Kody was hot, hot, hot – and didn’t Maggie know it. The whole cast of characters in this book leapt off the page – they were vivid and exciting.

The story was wonderfully, magically imaginative. And you know, I didn’t doubt for a minute that the cottage existed exactly where she said it did! The self-discovery by Maggie was pivotal and her growing feelings for Kody were sensitively dealt with. I loved the story and the imagination behind it but most of all I was enthralled by the use of language. It was beautiful and poetic and lyrical. The skilful use of metaphor and simile took the writing to another level. The descriptions of people and places came alive for me. ’Spinning Tales’ is excellent and I highly recommend it.

I was given this Arc for review by Bold Strokes Books and Netgalley.

Review of ‘Alice’ by Sam Skyborne

‘Alice’ is one of those books that surprises, engages and takes the reader off in unexpected directions. It is the story of a young woman trapped in an awful marriage. When she decides she can take no more and leaves, her life becomes one of secrets, new friends and a fight to keep her new found freedom. Sam Skyborne made me feel an affinity with Alice. I felt as if I was along for the ride and worried about her as she became more involved in her new life in Cape Town. A PI, Toni Mendez, is sent to track her down and her part in the story opened up a whole lot of other issues. This book had so many layers and was intelligently plotted. I could never have guessed the twists and turns and I take my hat off to the author. Bravo!

I was given this ARC for review. 

Review of ‘The Curse Of The Old Woods’ by Elizabeth Andre

The curse of the old woods is an intriguing story from the start. Maya and Julie are paranormal investigators with their own companies. They are thrown together when both are hired by an elderly lady, Mrs Fourier, to investigate the disappearance of her sister Katie many years before. The mystery of why Katie disappeared and why her sister needs the two women to help them connect again had me gripped. This ghost story has all the chills too and is well crafted. The strength of this story and the reason it works so well is the interaction between all of the characters in it. Maya and Julie don’t work alone but have friends and family helping them. I was so glad to find that this is the first in a new series as I can really see it working. A very enjoyable read.

Review of ‘Spencer’s Cove’ by Missouri Vaun

‘Spencer’s Cove’ is a fantastical tale of witches, good and evil and ultimately love. Foster Owen, a mystery novelist with a serious case of writer’s block, is given a lifeline when a job comes up to ghost write a family memoir for Abigail Spencer. Abby has inherited her family’s mansion on the Pacific Coast and on first meeting she is a shy, frightened rabbit of a woman. When Foster starts looking into the family’s past some very interesting stories emerge and she is intrigued. Just when I thought I knew where this story was going and who everyone was, Missouri Vaun took me on a ride that totally exceeded my expectations. Seeing changes in Abby was enlightening and Foster had a lot to do with that. She was a beautifully envisaged soft butch – and who could blame Abby for being attracted to her? The novel had some amazingly strong women and a feeling of camaraderie and power that appealed to me so much. I loved the mixture of the historical research Foster was undertaking and the present day story that stemmed from it.  It was a magical tale and I absolutely adored it. Highly recommended.

I was given this ARC by Netgalley and Bold Strokes Books to review.