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All relationships have their ups and downs, whether it’s struggles with a partner or difficulties in the family. Our Relationship Stories section shows the unique features of relationships in gloriously written technicolour.
An absolute wow of a relationship tale, gloriously beautiful yet it may well have broken my heart. Ben travels to Africa and volunteers at a lion reserve, as we remain with him in the present, we also look back to his past, where he meets Andrew, who keeps a Wish Box. When Louise writes it feels touchable, even if I have not experienced the emotions she describes I can feel them deep inside me. I remained in every moment, moving with the words, the feelings, knowing I was heading into unchartered territory, yet unable to pause, to stop reading. Another story heads each chapter, linking Ben and Andrew, yet creating a separate connection. As I neared the ending, I will admit to sobbing, the story hit me low in my stomach, unexpected, yet as true and real and felt as could be. Louise Beech has done it again, this will most definitely be on my list of favourite reads of the year. The Lion Tamer Who Lost is a relationship tale with a difference, it is tender, gripping, eloquent, and I want to shout about it from the rooftops.
Tremendously entertaining, and truly captivating. Nate is in for a shock, after 16 years of marriage his wife has left him and their son, with just a note listing all of his faults. Nate is determined to right his wrongs, and win Sinead back. I always smile when I pick up a Fiona Gibson book as I know I’m in for a real treat, she has the ability to connect, to enter thoughts and feelings while delivering a wonderfully humorous and enticing read. This is a beautifully balanced novel with a decidedly knowing edge. It may well provoke thoughts, and create moments of awareness, as there are occasional provocative stings along the way. I found my feelings unravelling and then tangling again, there are some unexpected moments and I have to say that I absolutely adored that ending! ‘The Mum Who’d Had Enough’ is a joyful corker of a read, thoroughly recommended.
A rather special, magically quirky yet deeply dark novel, with a potentially misleading title - until you’ve read the book and all becomes clear! Sisters Lilly and Neave set up a cosmetics empire as the USA becomes involved in the Second World War. When Lilly goes missing, Neave finds herself in incredible danger. Sharon Powell writes with a sparkling pen, adding just enough enchantment, while retaining a gritty feeling of reality. Mr Boppit became a firm favourite of mine, I quite fell under his spell, particularly regarding his choice of shoewear. Another tale runs alongside and inside the main storyline, adding an extra dimension to the read. There is a sparkling alchemy to the writing, yet an ominous undertone ensured I was kept on the edge of my seat as the tension increased. ‘The Romance Reader’s Guide to Life’ is a particularly charming, wonderfully compelling read, do I recommend it, why yes, I most assuredly do!
A steaming hot and beautifully tender love story, with an added element to appreciate and connect to. Stella Lane is a successful business woman in San Francisco, she has Asperger syndrome and has never had a relationship. Determined to learn how to be a good girlfriend with all that entails, Stella hires Michael a male escort, and the more time they spend together the closer they become. In 2016 the author was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (Asperger syndrome), and felt inspired to write ‘The Kiss Quotient’. Helen Hoang releases short sharp bursts of words and feelings, then allows them to settle, encouraging the storyline to build. Asperger syndrome is very much a part of this book, however it isn’t the sum of it, the connection between two people takes centre stage, with all that they have to discover about each other. ‘The Kiss Quotient’ is an intoxicating tale, it wraps itself around thoughts and releases stings of awareness, creating a feast of a read.
Hippie is a spiritual journey of self-discovery. This autobiographical account of Paulo Coelho’s nomadic past is written in the third person as if it’s fiction, with the author drawing upon his own experiences on the hippie trail in the 1970s. The book focuses on a young Brazilian, Paulo, and his Dutch companion, Karla, who are travelling on a Magic Bus heading to Kathmandu, trying to define their place in the world. The author also gives voices to other characters, reflecting the diversity of those looking for adventure, spiritual enlightenment or an alternative lifestyle with few restrictions. At times, Hippie reads like a literary travelogue through Europe towards Nepal, with its vivid descriptions of people, places and cultures, evoking a great sense of place. And at other times, it reads like a guidebook of self-exploration. This is a book about liberation and freedom, set at a time where there was no political correctness to stifle people’s thoughts, actions and choices. Hippie is a nostalgic look at the drug-fuelled hippie culture, but also a snapshot of past memories that have shaped the author’s writing and outlook on life. Certainly an intriguing read.
Smart, taut and fabulous, Trap really does deliver a first-class read. Following quite beautifully on from Snare (and yes you do need to have read Snare first) can I just mention the covers, they are stunning in their simplicity and how they link to the novels. Set in Reykjavik just after the volcanic eruption in 2011, Sonja discovers that running away doesn’t solve anything, but declaring war can be just as deadly. Lilja Sigurdardottir ensures sharp shocks of chapters hit with increasing energy. The translation by Quentin Bates is again so fully complete, I existed in this Icelandic world without question. My feelings hovered with regards to the characters, swooping one way and then the other, which felt entirely right, as innocence and guilt are so often two sides of the same coin. A short book Trap may be, it’s also a towering powerhouse of read and I gobbled it up in one intense sitting. Please Orenda, may we have some more?!
Ahh, what a lovely, engaging read this is, there is also an edge to be found too, which makes it particularly relatable. Katie has made running away from difficult times an art form, now she is settled on the Dorset coast with her four-year-old son, she is determined to stay put. A Gift from the Comfort Good Cafe forms part of the 'Comfort Food Cafe' series of books, it reads quite beautifully as a standalone, yet you will recognise the other characters and of course the cafe if you’re already a fan. I would love to pay a visit to Budbury, to sit down to tea and toast in the cafe and allow the energy of the characters as they go about their daily business to surround me. Debbie Johnson has given Katie a really strong voice, while Katie has her vulnerabilities, it’s wonderful to see her confidence grow. The romance is of course as delicious as the cake on offer and a light sparkling sense of fun bounces from the pages. All in all a quite gorgeous and beautifully comforting read.
Heartbreaking and uplifting, the story of the workhouse orphan, Eliza, will touch your heart... Eliza was left as a small baby at the workhouse in Whitechapel, wrapped in her mother's shawl, which is all she has of the mother she never knew. At eleven years-old, she has survived sickness, near starvation and harsh beatings. Master Simpkins and his cruel daughter rule the workhouse with a rod of iron, but when Romany boy, Joe, arrives at the workhouse, his spirit and courage give Eliza hope that another life is waiting for her outside. When she is sold into service, Eliza is relieved to be out of the workhouse and hopes her fortunes are changing for the better, but cruelty and unkindness are everywhere and her salvation could become her ruin...
Gosh, just stunning! For me, this is the very definition of a must-read… eloquent, absorbing, absolutely fascinating and thoroughly enjoyable. I thought The Last Hours (which you really do need to read first) was exquisitely engaging and satisfying, and I enjoyed The Turn of Midnight just as much, perhaps even more as the characters were known to me, beloved by me. Lady Anne and educated serf Thaddeus have joined forces to prevent the Black Death from decimating their community. As they attempt to secure the independence of Develish however, trouble continues to haunt them, to hunt them down. Maps and a summary of the people, places and events from The Last Hours ensured I was able to step straight into the story. Minette Walters has the most beautiful voice, my soul became at one with the words. I sank so fully into the story that I was surprised at the end of each chapter when I suddenly came to and became aware of my surroundings. The time, the place are vibrantly alive, I could touch kindness, smell bitterness, taste fear. Please, please, please let there be more! The Turn of Midnight is a powerful, gripping read, and yes I am gushing most effusively over it, that’s because it really is rather wonderful and I highly recommend buying yourself a copy.
An Unsuitable Match, by number one bestselling author Joanna Trollope, is an uplifting story of love, family and second chances. `Why on earth, after all you've been through, all you've survived, all you've achieved, why do you want to get married?' Rose Woodrowe has just got engaged to Tyler Masson - a wonderful, sensitive man who is head-over-heels in love with her. The only problem? This isn't the first time for either of them, and their five grown-up children have strong opinions on the matter . . . Who to listen to? Who to please? Rose and Tyler are determined to get it right this time, but in trying to make everyone happy, can they ever be happy themselves?
LONGLISTED FOR THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE 2018 Connell and Marianne grow up in the same small town in rural Ireland. The similarities end there; they are from very different worlds. When they both earn places at Trinity College in Dublin, a connection that has grown between them lasts long into the following years. This is an exquisite love story about how a person can change another person's life - a simple yet profound realisation that unfolds beautifully over the course of the novel. It tells us how difficult it is to talk about how we feel and it tells us - blazingly - about cycles of domination, legitimacy and privilege. Alternating menace with overwhelming tenderness, Sally Rooney's second novel breathes fiction with new life.
You'd die for your family. But would you kill for them?Family is everything. So what if yours was being terrorised by a neighbour - a man who doesn't listen to reason, whose actions become more erratic and sinister with each passing day? You go to the police, but they can't help you. You become afraid to leave your family at home alone. But there's nothing more you can do to protect them. Is there?
A delightfully warm and easy to sink into romance. Becky returns home to the Yorkshire Dales, wanting to fit back into the local community she and a group of villagers decide a Christmas Pantomime may just save the local village hall. This is the second in the ‘Love in the Dales’ series, and yet my first by Mary Jane Baker. I found it to be a perfect standalone read though I have no doubt that the first book A Bicycle Made For Two would have introduced me to several of the characters. Becky embraces village life, the age range of the villagers from young Pip through to grandparents with attitude ensures an all-encompassing hug. There are some wonderfully larger than life supporting characters who certainly encouraged several smirks to come forth and there are enough pantomime innuendos to please the most devilish of dames! I could see where The Perfect Fit was heading, and that was the joy of the read, as it was comforting, supportive, and highly entertaining.
Immerse yourself in this chilling, gripping, psychological thriller. It's an addictive page-turner and I couldn't put it down. The 17-year gap in friendship between Abi and Mel, the reunion, reliving the happy times, the twists and turns, the glamorous celebrity versus the suburban housewife. I was hooked on the book and it reminded me why I love Adele Parks so. You can't help but question yourself all the way through and deliberate about how you would deal with the scenarios encountered. I'm not sharing, but what the hell would you do?
Where Has Mummy Gone? is a captivating insight into the life of a foster carer. Eight-year-old Melody is angry and confused when she comes to live with Cathy Glass and her family, claiming that her drug-dependent mother Amanda can’t manage without her. Over time, it transpires that this vulnerable child isn’t the only one who needs help. Cathy works tirelessly to juggle Melody’s needs alongside the bureaucracy of fostering and bringing up her own children. It’s a difficult and demanding role, especially because, in this particular situation, Amanda needs specific care as well. This is my first Cathy Glass book and certainly won’t be my last. It’s written in a clear and easy-to-read style, with vivid descriptions bringing people, places and events to life. At times I forgot that this is a true story, with several revelations that could have come straight out of fiction. Where Has Mummy Gone? is filled with compassion and love, mixed with heartbreak and tragedy – a reminder that foster care can help to make a big difference to people’s lives. Its bittersweet ending brought tears to my eyes, touched me deeply and left me thinking.
Dust off your dance cards and practice your repartee, as the Bennet sisters are back. Kitty Bennet is lonely, with three of her sisters married, she begins to consider her previous antics. Spending time with both Jane and Lizzy, Kitty’s eyes open to new possibilities. I adore anything that lengthens my forays into Jane Austen’s world and I immediately felt at home. I could see, hear, almost reach out and touch the much-loved characters as they walked in my mind. This is such a gentle, loving, and beautifully readable novel, you don’t actually need to have read Pride and Prejudice to step into the pages. Carrie Kablean perhaps sees certain well-loved characters with a slightly different eye to my own, which was fascinating as I felt myself evaluating my own impressions and thoughts. What Kitty Did Next is a delightful, thoroughly enjoyable read, and I fairly skipped through from beginning to end.
A feverishly seductive story, it whispers, cajoles, beckons from history until the past forcefully assaults the present. When Ruth’s estranged father dies she returns to Edinburgh and discovers the hidden diary of her ancestor Thomas Erskine. Fascinated by his story Ruth finds herself in extraordinary danger when she starts to delve into the past. The prologue offers a warning, while the first chapter thoroughly sets the scene in 1760 as 10 year old Thomas witnesses a murder and sees the shadow of the dead man as it leaves the body. Barbara Erskine has based the story on her own family history, she paints a picture with a beautiful delicate balance and inner strength as the drama starts to unfold. Ruth’s story stands resolute in this time, and with a delicious shiver of fear I let the story take me where it willed. I always knew where I was, even as the past pushed ever closer. Spellbinding and gorgeously readable, as all becomes clear The Ghost Tree really is the most perfect title - highly recommended.
A deeply emotional, dramatic, and refreshingly original story for young (or older) adults, set in the late 1990’s in Australia. Teenager Sam’s mother dies in his arms on New Year’s Eve, mourning and traumatised, he moves in with his estranged Aunt and cousins, and his life is forever altered. The first chapter simply and vividly set the scene, I could look around me, almost touch, smell, hear my surroundings. Claire Zorn writes with eloquent empathy, yet doesn’t hide from heartache. As I read I could see Sam’s pain as a stinging physical entity. I found myself completely immersed in the story, the words caught hold of me, picked me up and ran. Sam’s raw emotions scorch the pages, he is the focus, yet the surrounding characters are fascinating in their own right. I adored the ending, where it left me, how it left me feeling. At times hope seems so very far away, yet it is very much a part of this story. ’One Would Think The Deep’ is a beautifully written tale, tender yet penetrating and powerful, it offered itself to me and let me sink into its depths.
The most hilarious debut you will read this year. Claire and Matt are divorced but decide what's best for their daughter Scarlett is to have a 'normal' family Christmas. They can't agree on whose idea it was, or who said they should bring their new partners. But someone did - and it's too late to pull the plug. Claire brings her new boyfriend Patrick, a seemingly eligible Iron-Man-in-Waiting. Matt brings the new love of his life Alex, funny, smart, and extremely patient. Scarlett, their daughter, brings her imaginary friend Posey. He's a rabbit. Together the five (or six?) of them grit their teeth over Organized Fun activities, drinking a little too much after bed-time, oversharing classified secrets about their pasts and, before you know it, their holiday is a powder keg that ends - where this story starts - with a tearful, frightened, call to the police... But what happened? They said they'd all be adults about this...
'Welcome to Ocean View. You don't know it yet, but you'll be happy here...' Julia's not running away. Not exactly. She just needs a break from Paris and Marc and all the sad stuff that's been going on lately. A little time to pull herself together. The job offer felt like a lifeline. But now she's back in Biarritz, suitcase in hand, she hasn't the faintest idea what she was thinking. What Julia doesn't yet know is there's more to the odds and ends of Ocean View than meet the eye. Behind the double doors lie broken hearts, lifelong secrets, a touch of romance and an unwavering passion for life. And sometimes it's the most unlikely of places and people who help you find your way.
32-year-old multi-lingual Nova works as an interpreter for the police. Blind since birth, an operation that restores her sight heralds the beginning of a bewildering journey to understand the world from scratch. The novel is brilliant in offering insights into Nova’s experience of blindness as readers feel her struggle to re-learn everything through her newly-opened eyes. While recovering from the operation, Nova meets Kate, who’s in hospital after sustaining a head injury. The women strike up an immediate bond, which becomes a tender friendship – and more – as they find they are entirely at home in each other’s company, able to open up, experience joy and see the world in new ways through each other’s interpretation of the world. Throughout, Nova’s “Rules of Seeing” notes serve as practical guidelines with metaphoric meaning - “The brain will hang onto objects after you have stopped looking” – and the novel is fascinating on the nature of perception. Nova’s “childlike wonder” when enjoying new experiences is infectious, while the intense expositions of Kate’s husband’s increasingly chilling actions are powerfully authentic and give this novel the page-turning urgency of a thriller. Raw, and radiant with the promise of new life and love, this dazzling debut comes recommended for readers who relish new novels by Mark Haddon, Matt Haig and Marina Lewycka.
A sparkling, witty, occasionally rather sexy debut that made me nod in agreement and splutter with laughter. 30 year old Polly works for Posh! magazine, she excels in making the aristocracy look spectacular on paper, however her love life is wilting dramatically… and she needs a Plus One for her best friend’s wedding. Polly quickly settled into a fabulous friend status, we sat together gossiping, I giggled, winced, and regularly raised my eyebrows as I read. Sophia Money-Coutts has a wonderfully light touch, she also keeps laughing gas in her pen, and isn’t afraid to use it. I alternated in reading bits out loud to my husband (who was as shocked as I’d hoped he’d be), and just sinking into, and enjoying the story. There is a heart-felt reality kick along the way, however for me this was an outrageously feel-good read. ‘The Plus One’ became my best friend while I read it, very funny, sometimes shocking, always extremely entertaining.
In Fairytale, Danielle Steel weaves a captivating story of a daughter's love and courage, and the hope that good really can prevail over evil. Camille Lammenais had a perfect childhood growing up in California's beautiful Napa Valley, surrounded by acres of her family's vineyards. Her parents, Christophe and Joy, still deeply in love after two decades of marriage, have built a renowned winery and chateau inspired by Christophe's native Bordeaux. After graduating, Camille returns to fulfil her lifetime ambition - helping to run Chateau Joy. But the fairytale suddenly ends with her Joy's death. Six months after losing his wife, Christophe is easy prey for a mysterious, charming French countess visiting the valley. Camille, still grieving for her mother, is shocked that her father risks being trapped, and cannot seem to see past the alluring looks, designer clothes and elegant manners. As Camille's world falls apart, it will take all of her strength and all the help she can get to fight for her family's legacy.
`You know those cracks in your heart, Lorna, where things didn't work out, but you picked yourself up and carried on? That's where the fear gets out. And where the light gets in.' It was Betty, defiant to the end, who sent Lorna back to Longhampton. If Lorna's learned one thing from Betty it's that courage is something you paint on like red lipstick, even when you're panicking inside. And right now, with the keys to the town's gallery in her hand, Lorna feels about as courageous as Betty's anxious little dachshund, trembling beside her. Lorna's come home to Longhampton to fulfil a long-held dream, but she knows, deep down, there are ghosts she needs to lay to rest first. This is where her tight-knit family shattered into silent pieces. It's where her unspoken fears about herself took root and where her own secret, complicated love began. It's not exactly a fresh start. But as Lorna - and the little dog - tentatively open their cracked hearts to old friends and new ones, facing hard truths and fresh promises, something surprisingly beautiful begins to grow around the gallery, something so inspirational even Lorna couldn't have predicted the light it lets into her world . . . An inspiring, life-enhancing novel that will make you see your life afresh . . . Fans of Jojo Moyes, Lucy Diamond and Veronica Henry will love it.
Makes the World Go Around
More than just romance, Relationship Stories can really strike a chord with us, at every stage of life. Just like relationships themselves, these books and there authors come in all shapes, sizes, atmospheres and aspirations. So, if something was missing from your last relationship read … we’ll help you find it in your next one! Here you’ll find the warm and the wise (Maeve Binchy, Cathy Kelly, Rosamunde Pilcher), the deliciously sexy (Jilly Cooper, Veronica Henry), the humourous and honest (Nick Hornby), the insightful (Joanna Trollope) and the … Perhaps, though you’re looking for a new relationship? Why not try our’ Author Like for Like’ tool or make a date with our Book of the Month recommendations and find your perfect match … for now, at least!
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