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Looking to try something new? Check out our Debuts of the Month selection. You never know, one might become your favourite new author and a special discovery!
Based on her great-great grandparents’ experiences, Tammye Huf’s A More Perfect Union is a heart-rending, soul-stirring story of the love between a black slave and an Irish immigrant. A lucid, bold tale of the despicable brutality of slavery, personal conflicts, and a bond that will not be broken. Henry O’Toole fled Ireland in 1848 to escape the famine. On arriving in New York, “America stabs me with homesickness” and he can’t find a job - “Every day it’s the same. No Irish”. Compelled to flee the city, he changes his surname to the English-sounding ‘Taylor’ and heads to Virginia. House slave Sarah is separated from her Momma and brother when she’s sold as a “quick-cleaning-slave-who-don’t-get-sick”. She and Henry meet when he comes seeking work as a blacksmith at the plantation she’s been sold to. Here Henry is moved by the sound of slaves singing at night, while Sarah paces her hoe in the kitchen garden to “the rhythmic strike of the blacksmith’s hammer”. The stirring attraction between them is palpable, but theirs is a forbidden relationship - inter-racial marriage is illegal, and viewed as an abomination. What’s more, she’s owned by another man. The couple are in an excruciating situation, their complex personal conflicts evoked with shattering clarity. Sarah has to reconcile loving a man whose white skin represents her oppression, and she’s also ostracised by fellow slaves. Then there’s the searing exchange when Sarah sees Henry making neck rings and shackles. When he protests that he has no choice, that he needs to earn money, that he knows what it is to be shackled by poverty, Sarah’s response captures the despicable inhumanity of enslavement: “’I know you been through a hard, hungry life,’ she says. ‘I want you to understand that slave suffering is a different thing. When somebody owns you, there ain’t nothing they can’t do to you.’” Both their voices are conjured with brilliant authenticity, and their story builds to an agonisingly edgy crescendo as the risks they take are as immense as their love. I cannot recommend this enough. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
Set within the viciously violent reign of Jack the Ripper this is a historical crime novel with real attitude. When Susannah reads newspaper reports detailing a number of ferocious murders, she fears her new husband may be involved as he has been disappearing at night and returning bloodied and secretive. Goodness what a premise this is! While blood-soaked and brutally descriptive, it feels convincing and authentic rather than glorified and salacious. Clare Whitfield doesn’t hold back, but I felt she looked beyond the obvious violence with thoughtful consideration. Not only does she explore the Jack the Ripper case with this novel, she also highlights violence against women, abject poverty, and prejudice. Through the novel we are shown a glimpse of other lives, a connection begins to form before deliberately slicing away again to the main story. This is one of those books where there is no perfect shining light of a character to attach yourself to, life is a struggle, at times a battle, just to survive. Compelling, thought-provoking, and powerful, People of Abandoned Character has been chosen as a LoveReading Debut of the Month.
A gobble-it-up fiery and intense yet thoughtful debut novel about family, betrayal, and witchcraft. Opening the pathway to a fabulous historical fantasy series this calls out as a must-read for young adults. Set during the civil war in 17th century England, 15 year old Evey has to flee with her little sister Dill when her mother is murdered. As with all good young adult novels, it is perfectly easy to slide into and really enjoy as an adult too, particularly with the wonderful cover drawing you in. Touching history, it flies into fantasy, as author Finbar Hawkins examines the meaning of witch. Evey is a complex character and as she tells her own story she has the ability of self-reflection, even if she doesn’t always like what she sees. Witch is a read that fair on crackles with energy, it also encourages thoughts to both consider and soar and deservedly sits as one of our LoveReading debuts of the month.
If you need a slice of pick-me-up then stop right here. Dean Nicholson is famous on social media as 1bike1world. His original aim to cycle solo around the world changed when he rescued abandoned kitten Nala and she joined him on his travels. The book charts his and Nala’s story and contains some squeezably lovely photos too. It seems as though Dean is still in shock at how quickly people took to his story (their instagram page at the time of writing sits at 810k followers). Dean comes across as completely down to earth and appreciative of the small things in life, the things that actually matter and mean the world. He has seen the very best of people, while also bearing witness to the sorrowful treatment of animals by some. Dean has raised a huge amount for charity since Nala came into his life. She is one photogenic cat, and her utter trust and love for Dean shines through. A hugely glorious bundle of feel-good, Nala’s World comes with beaming smiles of recommendation from me. Chosen as a LoveReading Star Book, this would make a perfect gift for a loved one (don’t forget to buy a copy for yourself too!). Explore our '80+ Books That Deliver a Hug' listicle for more feel-good or uplifting books.
Diary of a Young Naturalist recounts a year in the life of an autistic and highly gifted 15 year old, struggling with school, bullies, moving house and fearing the decline of the natural world whilst rejoicing in it. Dara McAnulty is clearly an extraordinary person and a beautiful and mature writer. His descriptions of his adventures in nature are inspiring for children, but also sure to brighten the souls of many an adult too. The intensity with which nature presents itself to the author is overwhelming, and his ability to share this with the reader is enthralling. It’s a rollercoaster ride being in the head of this young man, but the book has the magic to open our eyes and ears to what beauty is around us each and every day - if only we looked! McAnulty's knowledge of wildlife and nature is simply extraordinary. His autism is a burden but also a super-power, providing him with piercing insight to a world that simply cannot be ignored with all its truth, tragedy and hope pouring out of every hedgerow, pond and dry stone wall. This is a diary which highlights our essential connection with the natural world, the landscape and our history embedded within it - but more importantly, it is also about our futures. Dara McAnulty is on a mission, and if the quality of this book is anything to go by, he will have a huge impact. For many children, this book will be the beginning of a wondrous journey. ~ Greg Hackett Greg Hackett is the Founder & Director of the London Mountain Film Festival
Our October 2020 Book Club Recommendation. Click here to see our Reading Group Questions. An absolutely charming and thoroughly entertaining mystery debut starring four septuagenarians. A real-life murder tickles the detective fancy of certain members from a well-to-do retirement village. Led by Elizabeth they sneakily make themselves indispensable to the investigating officers. I’m already working out who I would cast as Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim, and Ron if this was made into a TV series. Each character in this amusing (yes it is charming and amusing even with a murder to solve) story is perfectly placed. There is a sense of ease, an inviting warmth, and a hint of old-fashioned, yet this story is actually bang up-to-date. A sharp edge to observations slices through any thoughts of cosy, while there is a gentle poking of fun at middle England. Richard Osman has created a wonderfully readable story that is the perfect introduction to a new series. I can't wait to see what comes next! The Thursday Murder Club has waltzed its way into my heart and the LoveReading Star Books list - highly recommended.
Shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award 2010. Set in a Finnish sanatorium where women retreat with problems real and imaginary this debut is dark, claustrophobic, tense and menacing. A dramatic and brilliantly told story but not one to try if you are looking for a light hearted read.
July 2015 Debut of the Month. A fabulous debut novel, You, Me and Other People is clever, wistful and endearing. Beth and Adam have been married for years, secrets also kept for years are set to rampage though and trample over their lives. In alternate chapters over several months we hear from them both, as time passes, shocks, surprises and all the emotions they bring, lie in wait. While Fionnuala Kearney covers heartbreak and despair, this is not a melancholy book, instead it is full of smiles, warmth and hope. The author writes with a beautiful heartfelt balance, it feels as though she has reached into her characters hearts and minds and exposed their inner core. it is difficult to put this wonderful book down, each page encourages you to keep reading and once finished, to look forward with anticipation to the author's next novel. Explore our '80+ Books That Deliver a Hug' listicle for more feel-good or uplifting books.
September 2015 Debut of the Month. A short, easy to read Choc-Lit romantic mystery with a healthy serving of suspense. The first chapter is intriguing, an attractive mystery man enters Anna’s life, should she follow her heart or her head? Anna’s emotions are at war with her thinking and refusing to listen to reason. Anna is likeable and tells her own tale, however her dilemma means she needs a helping hand in the advice department and of course it’s easy to dispense it from the sidelines. Clare Chase teases the reader with the enigmatic male characters, spinning facts and the background to their stories along the way. Agreeably entertaining, You Think You Know Me builds to a rather alarming and dangerous climax and Anna discovers whether her heart or head has finally won the day. ~ Liz Robinson
Winner of the Romantic Novelists' Association Contemporary Romantic Novel Award 2013. Shortlisted for the The Melissa Nathan Award For Comedy Fiction About Life and Love 2013. This witty, funny book is a story about second chances; can they work or should you let sleeping dogs lie? Ten years after ‘the relationship’ Rachel meets Ben by chance and thinks something is still there but dare she risk opening old wounds and dashing a broken heart? Hilarious, heartbreaking and everything in between, you'll be hooked from their first 'hello'. December 2012 Debut of the Month.
July 2015 Debut of the Month. Shortlisted for the John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger Award 2015. Joe, a bookshop manager in Manhattan, seems an average sort of guy but when the beautiful Beck walks into the book store everything changes. The man becomes seriously obsessed with her and as with all great obsessions, jealousy and possessiveness walk in. All told in the second person narrative this gets very penetrating. The relentless one-way perspective, full of literary and artistic references, makes for a challenging read. ~ Sarah Broadhurst
January 2013 Debut of the Month. Why would a mother give up her daughter? Can abandonment ever be an act of love? And could you ever forgive her? Written in the first-person present tense, this is a powerful, intelligent and arresting look at parenting, foster care and the issues of finding your identity.
Mary Blight, our unswervingly entertaining heroine, is a salty-talking, salty-acting woman. She picks over the corpses of those drowned off her craggy Cornish cove looking for treasures, such as the fine boots she pulls from a lady’s feet. And then she sees that the body’s earlobes are missing, leading to the national press reporting on the Porthmorvoren Cannibal, and someone saw blood around Mary’s mouth…But it’s Mary who takes in a washed-up stranger and nurses him back to health with the aid of Old Jinny’s curious cure. The man is a Methodist minister who decides to restore the cove to godliness and, observing Mary’s knowledge of the scriptures, he appoint her as Sunday School teacher, to the chagrin of the villagers who are familiar with Mary’s penchant for carnal pleasures. Mary throws herself into her new role but admits in typically honest fashion “I wanted Gideon to save me, but not so that I could kneel at the throne of King Jesus…I wanted him to help me flee the village so I could parade among all the smots in all my finery in a grand town”. As the villagers scheme against Mary, a nation-wide search for a thief gathers pace, and all the while the writing crackles with energy and atmosphere, making this an exhilarating read with something of a Dickensian spirit in the vibrant characterisation.
An absolute delight of a romantic comedy debut, stuffed full of smiles, flirtations, and feel-good moments. Evie has to prove that it is possible to meet and fall in movie-style love, her job depends on it, and so her life is taken over by arranging ridiculously cheesy meet-cutes. The intriguing chatty prologue made me snort with laughter and I found myself relaxing and sinking into the story. Text messages, emails, and screenplay excerpts appear within the pages (but not too many), which keeps things interesting. Anette, and Evie’s friends are a fabulous supporting cast, while the two leading men add an edge to the will-they-won’t-they potential! Rachel Winters keeps things beautifully bright and breezy, bringing out the very best of the romcom. Would Like To Meet is very lovely indeed, in fact, it allows you to properly escape reality for a while and I really didn’t want to leave the pages!
Winner of the 'Best of the Best' children's category at the Independent Bookshop Week Awards 2016. June 2012 Debut of the Month. Frank, powerful, warm and often heart-breaking, Wonder is a book you'll read in one sitting, pass on to others, and remember long after the final page. This is a wonderful debut from a storyteller with a great future if this book is anything to go by and her characters are intensely likeable. Listen to an audio extract by clicking on the orange arrow below. Wonder by R J Palacio by Random House Audiobooks
Winner of the HWA Goldsboro Debut Crown Award Longlist 2016. One of our Books of the Year 2015. November 2015 Debut of the Month. The most impressive thing about this extraordinary book is its atmosphere. You can feel the cold and the desperation of the people trying to live through the ‘wolf winter’, a term used to describe the coldest of winters. We follow a family of new settlers. This is Swedish Lapland in 1717 where the church has a grip on the community but the Lapps still believe in the ancient spirits. When a body is found folk are quick to blame a bear for his death but the new settlers see signs of a knife wound, not a claw. This is very special, a ghostly feel of menace lies just beneath the surface in a long, complicated and gripping tale. Awesome. ~ Sarah Broadhurst HWA Chair judge Andrew Taylor said: "The judges were unanimously impressed by Wolf Winter. Not only is it astonishingly accomplished for a first novel, but it plunges the reader into Swedish Lapland 300 years ago and plays havoc with your emotions. Dark, powerful and beautifully written, it's a worthy winner of the HWA Goldsboro Debut Crown.
February 2015 Debut of the Month. The most impressive thing about this extraordinary book is its atmosphere. You can feel the cold and the desperation of the people trying to live through the ‘wolf winter’, a term used to describe the coldest of winters. We follow a family of new settlers. This is Swedish Lapland in 1717 where the church has a grip on the community but the Lapps still believe in the ancient spirits. When a body is found folk are quick to blame a bear for his death but the new settlers see signs of a knife wound, not a claw. This is very special, a ghostly feel of menace lies just beneath the surface in a long, complicated and gripping tale. Awesome.
Winner of the Costa First Novel Award 2010.Costa Book Awards 2010 Judges' comment: "Kishwar Desai pulls off a remarkable trick, transplanting a country house murder to modern day India in a book that's not afraid to tackle serious themes."
Fabulous First-time Fiction
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