No catches, no fine print just unadulterated book loving, with your favourite books saved to your own digital bookshelf.
New members get entered into our monthly draw to win £100 to spend in your local bookshop Plus lots lots more…Find out more
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.
It’s 1950 and ten-year-old Michael is heading to Cape Cod for the summer. His train journey from Grand Central sets the tone, with the spectre of WWII looming large in a very real way as his memory streams images from train journeys he took in Germany, when it was essential to “keep your eyes shut and pretend you haven’t yet woken or that you’re already dead.” On arrival Michael stays with Richie and they strike up a bond with eccentric neighbour Edward Hooper, who’s depressed by his impotence as an artist, and his intellectually sharp wife Jo, who’s given to passionate, impetuous outbreaks. Personal loss, regrets, loneliness and hazy hopes are played out against a background of sweeping change (post-war transition; the beginning of the era of American consumerism) and the powerfully painted Cape Cod setting. In an era of quick digests and speedy swiping, this novel of depth and honesty stands as a testament to the potent value of taking one’s time.
As eight-year-old girls, three friends made a marriage pact. Now approaching thirty, Dahlia is the only one who remains unmarried and the pressure to conform, to accept a husband, is crippling. Dahlia is desperate to be “unfettered by customs and bonds and the burden of ancestry”, and it’s clear to her that life is much easier for young boys who “would have freedoms my sister and I never contemplated...the freedom to live their lives without constant scrutiny...the freedom to not marry without shame or guilt.” While Dahlia has conformed to her parents’ idea of a suitable career, she remains steadfast in her refusal to marry a man she does not love, and still harbours a desire to pursue her artistic talents, while battling familial and peer pressure, while haunted by the abuse inflicted on her by a family friend. Dahlia’s intimate, introspective narrative evokes a sense of constriction and conflict with remarkable potency, and readers will applaud her courage and acts of defiance. Thought-provoking, long-lingering and simmering with the strength of the human spirit, this is a powerfully assured debut.
A fascinating intricate storyline greets you in this dual time-frame novel. Lady Isabella Gerard, the owner of a stunning golden gown orders it destroyed, from that moment on lives linked to the gown are forever altered as it influences, and even possesses those who come into contact with it. I have to say that it is actually rather difficult to force-fit The Woman In The Lake into a genre as it spills into a number, including historical, relationship, mystery and it contains more than a whiff of supernatural too. Nicola Cornick has created characters with some, shall we say, undesirable traits (the reasons for which become clear), and I have to say that I enjoy a little wild and wicked! Seriously though, a character feels more well-rounded when you feel you can see them in their entirety. I just let myself go with a whoosh into this storyline, enjoying the supernatural edge, and would now love to visit Lydiard House to see the painted window. The Woman In The Lake is so deliciously easy to read and it’s highly entertaining.
Hands up if you love a confident, penetrating, darkly brilliant psychological thriller, if you do then do step this way, as ‘Blood Orange’ is a stunner! Alison is defending her first murder case, all while having an affair, drinking too much, staying out too late and neglecting her husband and daughter… her life is about to get seriously complicated. Alison tells her own story, no holds barred we hear it as it is, and sometimes it isn’t pretty. I have to say that at times Alison wasn’t on the top of my list of favourite people which gives the story real attitude. I was completely drawn into Alison’s world, hovering over her shoulder, watching, and yes I admit it, sometimes judging. Harriet Tyce allows the story to open up in front of you, all the information is there, consequently, I found myself tugging at tendrils and picking at tantalising frayed edges as I read. This is one seriously addictive book, I read it in one sitting, so do set aside plenty of reading time. ‘Blood Orange’ thrilled me, it is just so readable, yet also feels clever, raw and real - so it comes as highly recommended from me.
An incredibly raw, at times difficult to read, quite gobsmacking debut. Cherry made me flinch, both physically and mentally, at times I had to look away and think of something else, yet the words continued to call to me. The author Nico Walker, as of 2019, is still in prison in the USA, he served as an army medic in Iraq, and returning home with severe PTSD started to rob banks to pay for his drug addiction. This story centres on a narrator who serves as an army medic in Iraq, and returning home with severe PTSD starts to rob banks to pay for his drug addiction (yes the same tale as the author). Let me be clear, this is a novel, yet the voice of the author is clearly heard, this is his story and he stamps his words, his very being on every single page. Hammer hard, quick firing sentences (with some choice language attached) shoot off of the page. There were times when I really didn’t like the narator, some of his life choices are difficult to understand, yet that is the whole point. The story turns full circle from the prologue, creating what feels like a never ending loop. This book made me ache, it often physically hurt to soak up the words, yet I would read it all again tomorrow, and so Cherry has to be one of my picks of the month.
It’s no secret that I am a fan of Dinah Jefferies and this is as beautifully and vividly enjoyable as one would expect. Slip back into history and join Belle Hatton who travels to Burma in 1936 to become a nightclub singer, accompanying her is a newspaper clipping suggesting her parents left Ragoon 25 years previously in mysterious circumstances. Two time frames sit side by side, in 1921 we meet Belle’s mother, lost and traumatised, while in 1936 Belle finds her life increasingly in danger. I adore the descriptive detailing, you can almost take in a deep breath of a bygone era. The colour of the place and people just pops with intensity. Belle begins a relationship with a man, yet it doesn’t take centre stage, it is important but certainly not the be all and end all of this particular story. There is one unforgettable moment, using an event from history that is shockingly dramatic and provocative, I saw with Belle’s eyes, felt the pain and fear. The Missing Sister is rich and expressive, it swept me up, releasing me only at the very satisfying ending.
A fascinating and truly memorable read concentrating on one family, with the centre of the story resting in East Germany. Two families join, with the marriage of Margret and Hans in the 1960’s. They as children, and both sets of parents lived through the Second World War. The repercussions from that time deeply affect all, with the story finishing in 1992, a few years after the fall of the wall. The opening note, before the novel begins was for me necessary and interesting. It charts the rise of the Nazi party and how all opposition was forcibly removed. It describes how after the war, as part of the Eastern bloc, industry was centralised and agriculture state controlled with workers housing being heavily subsidised. Defection was high and the Berlin Wall was built in 1961, with East and West Germany eventually reunified in 1990. Anne Richter focuses on just a few characters, their thoughts and feelings clamour from the page and show the wider world around them. The story grows, becomes clearer as the focal point moves from one person to the next. This is such an incredibly intimate novel, my understanding altered as I read, as events became clear. I always know that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed a novel when I want to research the history and time it is set in. I just want to say that the translation is excellent, with a glossary of terms and literary references also available. ‘Distant Signs’ set my thoughts thrumming, it is so intruiging, compelling and beautifully readable too.
After a brief introduction by Carole Matthews into the book’s background, narrator Emma Powell introduces us to the main character Molly Baker – an ex-teacher who now runs a farm for children with specific needs. Or in Molly’s own words, the farm is open to ‘bewildered, damaged and troubled animals and humans’. The book is written (and therefore narrated) in the first person. I felt as though I was listening to a good friend chatting about her life – her run-down farm, her difficult childhood and her lovable animals. It all seemed very personal, especially as Molly is funny and witty, down to earth and full of heart. She describes everything around her so well that I could visualise it, including ‘clouds drifting across the blue sky’. Hope Farm is filled with animals, from naughty goats and angry sheep to the diva alpacas – and for me, the animals are the main stars of the show. The supporting human cast felt very real too, especially moody teenage tearaway Luke who is grieving for his mother and craving his celebrity father’s attention. Happiness for Beginners would make an enjoyable holiday read, with its satisfying happy ending. The chapters are short – most range from around three minutes to 10 minutes, so they are easy to fit into a busy (or lazy) spring or summer’s day. As expected, there is plenty of romance alongside heart-warming moments and amusing animal antics. There’s also a farm at risk of demolition to provide land for a high-speed train line. If you’re having a bad day and need a book to give you a hug, this is definitely one for you!
What a lovely, charming, friendly read this is, an enticing ‘will they, won’t they’ romance is equally matched by the story of animals in need and children requiring an alternative learning environment. Molly Baker runs her beloved farm as a school, when a new student arrives, Molly’s life is turned thoroughly upside down and in to a roundabout spin. I adored the explanation at the beginning of the novel by Carole Matthews that Hope Farm is based on the real Animal Antiks Farm. The first sentence had me chortling and I settled further down into the comfort of my sofa to enjoy the read. Molly tells her own story, I could really hear her voice and her personality shines through. Can I say that the animals very nearly steal the show for me, having had a downright grumpy (read that as flesh tearing vampire) rescue cat myself, their individual quirks made me smile. ‘Happiness for Beginners’ is entertaining, heart-warming and ever so readable, I raced through in one sitting and enjoyed every second.
A YEAR IN THE COUNTRY. A YEAR TO FALL IN LOVE. The deliciously romantic novel from the Sunday Times Number One Bestselling Author of A Summer At Sea and A Secret Garden. 'Modern Day Austen. Great fun!' Red 'Top-drawer romantic escapism' Daily Mail 'Deliciously enjoyable' Woman & Home 'Effortlessly lovable' Closer Fran has always wanted to be a farmer. And now it looks as if her childhood dream is about to come true. She has just moved in to a beautiful but very run-down farm in the Cotswolds, currently owned by an old aunt who has told Fran that if she manages to turn the place around in a year, the farm will be hers. But Fran knows nothing about farming. She might even be afraid of cows. She's going to need a lot of help from her best friend Issi, and also from her wealthy and very eligible neighbour - who might just have his own reasons for being so supportive. Is it the farm he is interested in? Or Fran herself? Warm, funny and wonderfully romantic, this is Katie Forde at her very best.
First Rhyme Mum is an entertaining journey through pregnancy and early motherhood - it made me laugh and reminisce. There are 40 poems in the book - all are fun, relatable and (mainly) humorous, covering wide-ranging topics that you wouldn’t usually expect to find in poetic form, such as needing a wee, a mother’s ‘baby brain’, the job description of motherhood, night shifts and ‘to-do lists’. The poems contain acute observations of everyday life and are varied and very well written, combining simple words to create powerful imagery. I could sense the emotion behind each poem - the excitement yet worry of the 40 weeks of pregnancy and the exhaustion and elation once baby arrives, all bound together by a mother’s love. I was particularly impressed by how the author fits so much descriptive language into each poem while still ensuring that each one manages to give a sense of rhythm and rhyme (even if this doesn’t always match exactly). It reminded me of some of Pam Ayres’s poems, with its sense of humour and laugh-out-loud moments. The book is easy to dip in and out of - each poem is short enough to slot into a few minutes during a busy day. It’s a lovely gift for new parents to remind them that they’re not alone and that others are going through the same emotional ups and downs. It also has wider-ranging appeal, as it reminded me of my own pregnancy experiences and made me chuckle as I recalled stories of early parenthood (my children are now in their mid to late teens). My only regret is that the book ended too soon, but fortunately there are more books on their way.
Prepare yourself, this is a slicing, clever, wonderfully captivating tale ready to twist thoughts, to skewer feelings. Thomas falls in love with Darling, his 16-year-old daughter Lola is horrified, each woman is determined not to lose Thomas. The intriguing prologue immediately hooked my attention, my eyebrows raised, my eyes opened wide, my mind gasped. We hear from both Darling and Lola, each so different, so vibrantly alive with conviction. Darling’s voice is rich and full of flavour, I could close my eyes and still hear her, while Lola is sharp with a head full of thoughts, brittle, yet flaming, fiery. I found myself reading faster, wanting to gobble up the pages, yet was determined not to miss a single word. By the time awareness started to prickle my consciousness, by the time understanding crashed in around me, I was on a non-stop collision course with the end. Darling is a powerful read, a vibrant, punchy, thoughtful wow of a read, and I loved it.
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!