Book Review: Fur Coat, No Knickers by Anna King

Fur Coat, No Knickers

Book number 48 (nearly there!) in my Goodreads Reading Challenge is Fur Coat, No Knickers by Anna King.

“A city torn apart by war. A family torn apart by tragedy

At the top of Lester Road in London’s East End stands ‘Paddy’s Castle’, the three-storey, red-bricked Georgian house that is home to Grace Donnelly and her family.

Life may be hard in the late 1930s, but it is nothing compared with what is about to follow. Grace’s beloved fiancé Stanley decides to enlist in the fight against Nazi Germany. And as the sirens signal blitz after blitz of bombers, the family can only hide in the cellar and hope they will survive.

But Grace has more than just the Germans to worry about. The good-looking Nobby Clark is keen to do more than just look out for his best friend’s fiancée. And scheming barmaid Beryl Lovesett is determined to worm her way into the family home, seducing Grace’s uncle with her fur coat, no knickers…” (Thanks Netgalley!)

As we all know, I love a bit of World War II historical fiction so this was right up my alley.  The novel is based around the Donnelly family and their friends as they find themselves in London for the duration of World War II.  They face tragedy, love and loss as they find themselves in a new world that involves bombings, blackouts and rationing.  The story centres on Grace, Violet and Polly, three sisters who are each trying to find their way in the world at a time of great uncertainty.

I really do love novels based during this time period.  In the face of adversity, the characters are brought together in a way that hasn’t happened since.  There isn’t anyone that hasn’t suffered the loss of a loved one as the men of the population are shipped off to war.  However the women left behind pull together to keep the country running, and to keep each other going despite their personal battles and grief.  Grace, Violet and Polly are three very different women, which is very apparent in the novel.  Grace fights to be strong and keep her family together; Violet is fiercely independent and in the new world finds herself conflicted between gaining more independence and the draw of her family. Polly is the frightened youngest Donnelly who is struggling to hold it together when faced with terrifying evenings in bomb shelters, as the Germans rain down on London with truly horrific results.

The fear and solidarity of those times in the late 1930s and early 1940s really comes across in this novel.  These women fight for themselves and for their family as they struggle to survive.  This is a story of tragedy, heroism, love, loss and family.  Go and grab yourself a copy of this novel!

Rating: 📖 📖 📖 📖

Thanks to Netgalley and Canelo for providing me a copy of this lovely novel!  My review is all mine, voluntarily given.

Book Review: Tanner by Sarah Mayberry


Book number 47 in my Goodreads Reading Challenge is Tanner by Sarah Mayberry.

‘He’s used to risking it all in the ring, but nothing prepared him for love…

After flying half-way around the world to surprise her boyfriend, Evie Forrester finds herself heartbroken and stranded in a strange city. What could be a total disaster becomes something else when a tall, dark bull rider turns out to be a white knight in disguise. Evie isn’t sure she needs saving, but Tanner Harding is a difficult man to deny. He’s even harder to resist…

Tanner Harding can tame a monster bull with ease, but he never expected to be floored by someone like Evie. Sparks fly between them until injury threatens to end Tanner’s career –and suddenly he’s the one in need of a rescue.

Evie can’t turn her back on her wounded hero and, as Tanner struggles with his recovery, she’s not sure she can guard her heart against him either. Tanner knows Evie has slipped under his skin, but she lives in Australia and his future is under a cloud. Can two people with too many reasons to walk away make the bold decision to stay?’ (Thanks Amazon!)

Tanner and Evie meet by accident when Evie flies over from Australia to surprise her boyfriend, the man she has loved since adolescence who had finally noticed her on his last visit home.  When the surprise does not go to plan, Evie finds herself lost in an unfamiliar country with little money, completely heartbroken and no plans for two weeks before her return flight home.

Tanner Harding is a bull rider, who upon seeing the broken Evie, could not bring himself to leave her alone.  What follows is the two of them leaning on each other for support as they are each faced with heartbreak, injury and threats to Tanner’s career.

This is a love story between two people thrown unexpectedly together in adverse circumstances.  Evie and Tanner do not plan to meet, and they certainly do not expect to care for one another when they each both need that care and support the most.  What happens next is not unexpected – but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable.  Sarah Mayberry provides two very likeable characters, both of whom face their own issues and ultimately come out of the other side changed people.  I really enjoyed this novel.  There was a romance which had to overcome barriers and a little bit of sauciness thrown in for good measure.  This is a great piece of escapism which you can lose yourself in for a few hours (preferably with a glass of wine!

Rating: 📖 📖 📖 📗

Book Review: Christmas at Conwenna Cove by Darcie Boleyn

Christmas at Conwenna Cove

Book number 46 in my Goodreads Reading Challenge is Christmas at Conwenna Cove by Darcie Boleyn.

‘When Grace Phillips travels to Conwenna Cove to help her parents move there 30 years after their honeymoon in the village, she sees why they fell in love with the place. The festive decorations, carols in the air and constant supply of delicious mince pies certainly make it hard to leave. Grace soon meets local vet Oli Davenport and initially finds him rude, but learning about his passion for animals and how much he cares for his two kids helps Grace to see a softer side to Oli.

It’s been three years since Oli lost his wife to cancer. Though he loves eleven-year-old Amy and five-year-old Tom more than anything it’s hard to be mum and dad. He has no interest in romance until he crosses paths with beautiful and kind-hearted Grace. The sparks fly but both Oli and Grace are holding onto fear about letting someone into their heart.

As the snow falls and Christmas wishes come true can Conwenna Cove work its magic and help Grace and Oli find the happiness they both deserve?’ (Thanks Netgalley!)

Grace Phillips is a successful author, who has a close relationship with her parents and is more than happy being single.  When her parents move to Conwenna Cove, she follows them to help them settle in, always with the intention of returning to her flat in Cardiff.

Oli Davenport has spent the last three years just surviving.  His beloved wife lost her battle with cancer, leaving him alone with his two young children and his veterinary practice.

I must admit that I have not read Summer at Conwenna Cove – so I look forward to picking it up! At no point did I feel like I was missing any vital details in this novel though, so I can confirm that this can be read as a standalone.  This novel is full of festive cheer, which despite it being only October, I loved!  I really enjoyed both Grace and Oli’s characters, and following the journey that they are both on.  Both characters have suffered a great personal loss, and are able to relate to each other in a way that some others cannot.  Grace and Oli both feel guilt at their attraction to each other, something they each have to overcome during their journeys.

As I have said on many book reviews previously, nothing about this novel is a surprise.  You know how it is going to end.  However that is exactly the point.  This novel is a piece of festive escapism, set in a beautiful village with no surprises.  It is a lovely romance, and reading it is the perfect way to spend a Saturday afternoon with a glass of wine!  So go grab yourself a copy, whilst I go and grab myself a copy of Summer at Conwenna Cove and reacquaint myself with that gorgeous village!

Rating: 📖 📖 📖 📖

Thank you to Netgalley and Canelo for giving me a copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: Make Believe Wedding by Sarah Mayberry

Make Believe Wedding

Book number 45 in my Goodreads Reading Challenge is Make Believe Wedding by Sarah Mayberry.

‘Everyone in Marietta, Montana, is in love and getting married – at least that’s the way it feels to Andie Bennett the night of the Valentine’s Ball. As she watches the man she’s loved from afar for half her life dance with another woman, Andie allows herself a moment of sheer fantasy as she fills out a stray entry form for the Great Wedding Giveaway. Andie channels years of fantasy and yearning for Heath McGregor onto the page, but she never intends to actually enter the Giveaway. Only a crazy woman would do that. But fate has other ideas….

When Heath learns he and Andie are last minute finalists in the Great Wedding Giveaway, he’s completely baffled. How on earth could anyone make such a ridiculous mistake? When it becomes clear that Andie will be humiliated if the slip-up becomes public, Heath does what any good friend would – he suggests they pretend the engagement is real until the Giveaway is over and then quietly “break up” when no one is paying any attention. It’s the perfect solution, except Heath very quickly realises that pretending Andie is his is no hardship at all. In fact, it may just be the best thing that’s ever happened to him…’ (Thanks Amazon!)

Andie Bennett is a bit of a tomboy.  She works for her brothers best friend Heath as an electrician, working on his construction sites day in and day out.  Oh, and she’s known that Heath is ‘The One’ since she hit puberty.  Which is a problem, because he’s her brothers best friend and he’s never actually noticed her.  So, after spending an evening at the Valentines Ball getting incredibly drunk, she inadvertently enters them into the Great Wedding Giveaway.

Heath is a good guy.  He runs a successful construction business, he enjoys the company of women and he’s close with his best friend Beau.  So close in fact, that he has steered clear of his little sister Andie other than to employ her.  She’s one of his best workers, and he doesn’t know what he’d do without her.  But he also doesn’t know what he’d do without Beau which is why she off limits.

When Andie and Heath are shortlisted for the Great Wedding Giveaway, Heath is baffled.  But he also knows that he can’t let Andie lose face in her male-orientated workplace.  So, together they decide to go ahead with their fake engagement.

There is nothing surprising about this novel.  It’s the story of two people who grew up together, but are kept apart romantically due their love for a mutual friend (or brother).  However it is a great light read full of romance with sauciness thrown in for good measure!  I really enjoyed reading this, more so than I had expected actually.  It is a great chick-lit with some naughty bits appearing through-out the novel (if you don’t like a bit of sauciness in your romance novels then this might not be for you).

Give it a read and let me know what you think.

Rating: 📖 📖 📖

Book Review: The Christmas Holiday by Maxine Morrey

The Christmas Holiday

Book number 44 in my Goodreads Reading Challenge is The Christmas Holiday by Maxine Morrey.

‘As winter comes to London, journalist Mia Walker is desperately hoping for her big break as a travel writer, dreaming of exotic locations and sun-soaked beaches. When she’s invited to write a romantic travel piece that ends in a huge winter wedding in London, she jumps at the chance. The only trouble is, the photographer is renowned adventure-junkie Hunter Scott, who Mia last saw five years ago when she ended their engagement.

It’s the opportunity of a lifetime, and Mia knows she’d be mad to say no – even if it does mean spending weeks travelling round the world with the one man she never wanted to see again! But as the wedding approaches, and the magic of Christmas begins to take hold, Mia can’t help looking out for mistletoe – and wishing she hadn’t cancelled her own engagement after all…’ (Thanks Amazon)

When I saw this novel was coming out by the lovely Maxine Morrey I was rather excited.  I loved The Christmas Project, and I knew that The Christmas Holiday would be just as good.  I was a little dubious about reading my first Christmas themed novel in September, but I really shouldn’t have worried.  This novel is more about seeing some amazing sights across the world than it is about Christmas, so please don’t worry about reading this novel too early in the year.

Mia Walker is a journalist who despite enjoying her job as the ‘Hatches, Matches and Despatches’ writer, longs to be a travel journalist.  She finds herself presented with the perfect opportunity – her boss asks her to travel alongside his daughter Olivia and her fiancee Sandeep to document the big worldwide trip they have planned before they get married at Christmas.  This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for Mia and she is determined to prove herself in the world of journalism.

Hunter Scott is a world renowned photographer, who also happens to be close friends with Olivia and Sandeep.  Oh, and he’s Mia’s ex-fiancee.  Awkward!

So, Mia and Hunter are forced to embark on a two month journey around the world together, documenting Olivia and Sandeep’s trip with words and photographs.  I really enjoyed getting to know the four main characters of this novel, although particularly Mia and Hunter.  As the novel progressed, I found it harder to understand Mia’s reasons for ending her engagement to Hunter, although it was also quite difficult to understand why Hunter walked away.  These two characters are clearly very stubborn who both had issues that they needed to deal with.

What blew me away about this novel though was the locations.  The travel destinations are described with such vibrancy that it is difficult not to get caught up in Mia’s excitement about visiting these places.  They are colourful places, full of culture and wonder.  They have definitely inspired me to add some places to my ‘to visit’ list!

I loved this novel.  It was light-hearted, even if it did touch on some more difficult topics (I don’t want to give anything away so you’ll have to read it to find out what these are for yourself).  There’s plenty to see with lashings of romance thrown in for good measure.  Go grab yourself a copy, there’s no need to wait until Christmas to experience some Christmas magic!

Rating: 📖 📖 📖 📖

Thanks to Netgalley for a copy of this lovely novel in exchange for my honest review.


Book Review: True Love at the Lonely Hearts Bookshop by Annie Darling

True Love at the Lonely Hearts Bookshop

We’ve made it to book 43 in my Goodreads Reading Challenge – Annie Darling’s True Love at the Lonely Hearts Bookshop.

‘Verity Love – Jane Austen fangirl and an introvert in a world of extroverts – is perfectly happy on her own (thank you very much), and her fictional boyfriend Peter is very useful for getting her out of unwanted social events. But when a case of mistaken identity forces her to introduce a perfect stranger as her boyfriend, Verity’s life suddenly becomes much more complicated.

Johnny could also use a fictional girlfriend. Against Verity’s better judgement, he persuades her to partner up for a summer season of weddings, big number birthdays and garden parties, with just one promise – not to fall in love with each other…’ (Thanks Amazon!)

So I chose to read this book based entirely on it’s sweet cover, the Jane Austen references and the fact that it has a bookshop in it – what more do you need!

Verity Love is one of five daughters to a Vicar, and as such she is quite the introvert.  Obviously, she absolutely does not need a man in her life, despite what her match-making friends think.  In social situations she often finds her asking what Elizabeth Bennet would do (and who wouldn’t – Elizabeth Bennet knew everything!). Verity is more than happy with her fake Oceanographer boyfriend Peter Hardy, however with it becoming increasingly difficult to come up with reasons for his absence she finds herself thrown into an unusual social situation with Johnny.

Johnny is becoming increasingly irritated with his friends attempts at matchmaking.  He is more than happy, particularly given the fact that he is already in love.  So when he finds himself cornered with Verity, he grabs the opportunity to create a mutually beneficial fake relationship that will cover them both for the entire summer, keeping both of their friends at bay with their matchmaking schemes.  There is only one rule in this arrangement – they must not fall in love with each other.  Which will be easy.  Right?

This novel is not one to read if you are looking for surprises.  You begin reading it and automatically know how it will end.  That is not the reason that I chose to read this novel though.  It is light-hearted, funny with some romance thrown in for good measure.  It’s a great novel to curl up with on the sofa with a cheeky glass of wine on a Sunday afternoon.  I’m aware that this is the second novel in the Lonely Hearts Bookshop series, so I look forward to reading the first one!  As the nights draw in and the temperature drops, light a fire, grab a blanket and enjoy this lovely feel-good novel.

Rating: 📖 📖 📖 📖

Thanks to Netgalley and Harper Collins Publishers for providing me with a copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

A Little Life

Book number 42 of my Goodreads Reading Challenge (and book number 10 of my holiday reads) is Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life.

‘When four graduates from a small Massachusetts college move to New York to make their way, they’re broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition.  There is kind, handsome Willem, an aspiring actor; JB, a quick-witted, sometimes cruel Brooklyn-born painter seeking entry to the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their centre of gravity.  Over the decades, their relationships deepen and darken, tinged by addiction, success and pride.  Yet their greatest challenge, each comes to realise, is Jude himself, by midlife a terrifyingly talented litigator yet an increasingly broken man, his mind and body scarred by an unspeakable childhood, and haunted by what he fears is a degree of trauma that he’ll not only be unable to overcome – but that will. define his life forever.’ (Thanks Amazon)

Firstly I must confess that it has taken me months to get round to reading this, despite two of my friends continuously pressing me to pick it up.  Clearly I am a very keen reader, however it’s sheer size was quite off putting!  Then, when I did finally pick it up I actually put it back down again.  I got three chapters in and honestly, I just wasn’t getting it.  I couldn’t understand why they loved it so much.  At their insistence however, I returned to this novel when I made it to my holiday.  Plenty of uninterrupted time to lose myself in this harrowing, beautiful and tragic novel of life, love and friendships.

I don’t even know where to start in reviewing this novel.  It was heart wrenching and devastating in so many ways.  It is a long book, with so many complexities to follow as you travel alongside Willem, JB, Malcolm and Jude as they grow up together and find their way in the world.  Each has different experiences, but the constant is each other.  Their love and support for each is other is tested in so many ways over the years but they remain tied to each throughout the novel.

Ultimately the novel centres around Jude, their friend who is damaged both physically and emotionally.  Whilst the other three are open books, Jude remains a mystery to them all as the decades pass.  Even to the reader Jude remains a mystery, as only snippets of his past are revealed at any one time.  What emerges is a truly shocking, tragic story of a childhood marred by physical and mental abuse, the kind of which you just can’t imagine.  Jude is defined by his life experiences, and you watch him as he battles with his demons.

Mental health is a prominent feature of this novel, and is something I genuinely believe needs to be discussed far more openly.  Jude is a prime example of someone that is suffering in silence like so many others do.  Jude has been damaged in the most horrific way, and even though he has the love of those closest to him he struggles to overcome the horrors of his past.

I cannot recommend this book enough.  It will take you time, it will damage you emotionally and you will reach the end not knowing how to deal with the knowledge you gain.  This is one of those books that will stop you picking up any other book for quite some time.  Jude, Willem, JB and Malcolm will stay with you long after you close the book.

Rating: 📖 📖 📖 📖 📖