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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.
Addie and her sister are about to embark on an epic road trip to a friend's wedding in rural Scotland. The playlist is all planned and the snacks are packed. But, not long after setting off, a car slams into the back of theirs. The driver is none other than Addie's ex, Dylan, who she's avoided since their traumatic break-up two years earlier. Dylan and his best mate are heading to the wedding too, and they've totalled their car, so Addie has no choice but to offer them a ride. The car is soon jam-packed full of luggage and secrets, and with four hundred miles ahead of them, Dylan and Addie can't avoid confronting the very messy history of their relationship... Will they make it to the wedding on time? And, more importantly... is this really the end of the road for Addie and Dylan?
Supple and immersive, Brit Bennett’s The Vanishing Half is an epic, elegant story of sisters and mothers, of identity, and divisive racist and colourist mentalities that tear communities, families and individuals asunder. It’s a breathtakingly beautiful book, peppered with lines that latch (“When he visited, Desiree felt like a girl again, the years falling away like meat off the bone”), and an exquisitely crafted plot that threads generations through time, and across America - the Deep South, California, New York, and back. “In Mallard, nobody married dark. Nobody left either.” But that’s exactly what identical twins Desiree and Stella do at the age of sixteen - they flee their “strange town” to start a new life in New Orleans. But after a time, Stella realises she can pass for white. After taking a job as a typist, she abandons Desiree for another new life as a white woman, eventually marrying her wealthy white boss who has no clue she’s black, and with whom she has a daughter who looks entirely white, to her relief. Meanwhile, Desiree’s path couldn’t be more different. She’s also married, with a “blueblack child”, and now, ten years after leaving, desperation forces her back to Mallard - she and her daughter need to escape domestic abuse. Through Stella’s fiercely emotive storyline we witness the most despicable bigotry when a Black family moves into her white neighbourhood. She’s agonisingly conflicted and tangled, especially when facing an unravelling of her fabricated identity. “She was one of the lucky ones. A husband who adored her, a happy daughter, a beautiful home. How could she complain about any of it?” And yet she’s desperately unfulfilled. Emptiness eats away at her; she feels like she doesn’t belong anywhere. As she says early on, she’s “split in two”. While following the sisters’ stories, Bennett brings in their daughters, and generations of secrets begin to bleed, creating a compelling, compassionate, consummately outstanding novel.
Hauntingly tender, and written with powerful grace, Clare Chambers’s Small Pleasures is an absolute joy from start to finish. It’s 1957 in suburban Kent, where Jean writes for a local newspaper with every aspect of her life still dominated by her contrary, controlling mother as Jean approaches forty. No post-work drinks with colleagues. No friends. No romance. Enter Gretchen Tilbury, an elegant Swiss woman who writes to the paper claiming her daughter was the result of a virgin birth. As Jean investigates the case, she becomes close to Gretchen, her kind, witty husband Howard, and the alleged miraculous daughter, all four of them finding comfortable joy in each other’s company. “You’ve stirred us out of our routine,” Howard remarks, to which Jean responds, “I would have thought it was the other way about.” While researching Gretchen’s youth, Jean inadvertently sends shockwaves through the Tilbury family when she reconnects Gretchen to a powerful figure from her past. At the same time, she and Howard find themselves falling for each other, both of them remaining faithful to Gretchen, graciously skirting their attraction - until it’s right to act. The novel features some of the most finely drawn, endearing characters I’ve encountered in recent contemporary fiction. For all her lonely frustration, Jean isn’t one to wallow. She’s pragmatic, with ripples of not-quite-regret lapping beneath her smooth, reasoned surface - a woman “who took pride in her ability to conceal unruly emotions.” Her domesticity pieces for the paper have something of Carrie Bradshaw’s musings about them, albeit without any in-your-face sex in the city (or the suburbs, in Jean’s case), with their apparently humdrum themes humorously paralleling soul-stirring events in her own life. Laying bare a quivering three-way tug between obligation, propriety and passion, and the inexplicable way thunderbolt-bonds are formed between similar-souled individuals, Jean’s conflicts and chance to love truly get under your skin. What a remarkable book, with a dagger-sharp climax that will pierce your heart.
A huggable, squeezable, gloriously uplifting debut and LoveReading Star Book that warmed my heart and made me smile. Amy Ashton sees beauty in things most people would throw away, her house is now overflowing with the items she has collected and bordering on dangerous. When she discovers a mystery that needs to be unravelled, she begins to confront her past. We meet a withdrawn and lonely Amy in the present, and then a second time frame joins the story, taking us back to 1998. Eleanor Ray releases information from the past with perfect timing, each new moment explaining and allowing access to Amy in the present. As each memory highlights a decision, my thoughts expanded and Amy began to take up residence in my heart. The surrounding characters are gorgeous (in particular Charles and his JCBs), and bring an energy that flows through the pages towards Amy. Radiating empathy and emotion Everything Is Beautiful is just what the world needs to take us forward into 2021. The LoveReading LitFest invited Eleanor Ray to the festival to talk about this wonderful debut Everything is Beautiful. You can view the event by subscribing to the LitFest programme for as little as £6 per month - or you can pay per view. For just £2, go, see Eleanor in conversation with Paul Blezard and find out all about why you should read this stunning debut.
“For the last thirty-two years, you’ve not once trotted out for a run around the block. And now you tell me with a straight face that you want to run a marathon.” So begins this scathingly amusing novel that sees 64-year-old Remington - recently forced to retire early after an unsavoury employment tribunal – develop an unhealthy obsession with extreme exercise and his hideously competitive trainer, Bambi. Remington’s wife, sixty-year-old Serenata has always been a solitary exerciser (“I find large numbers of people doing the same thing in one place a little repulsive”), so the fact that her “husband had joined the mindless lookalikes of the swollen herd” comes as a shock, and an insensitive affront too, given that she was recently compelled to give up a lifetime of running after a diagnosis of osteoarthritis in both knees. Their spiteful bickering begins immediately, with neither party displaying themselves in a favourable light. Indeed, both characters are largely unlikeable, which makes their sniping all the more entertaining. Remington bemoans accusations of privilege, thus revealing said privilege: “I’m a little tired of being told how ‘privileged’ I am... How as a member of the ‘straight white patriarchy’ I have all the power. I’m supposedly so omnipotent, but I live in fear, less like a man than a mouse.” After (eventually) crossing the finish line of his first marathon, Remington signs-up for a gruelling triathlon, with his farcical persistence in spite of serious incidents and injuries making this novel both hilarious and excruciatingly cringe-worthy, albeit with an unexpectedly bittersweet upshot.
A beautifully gentle yet pointed, and amusing yet thoughtful, feel-good relationship tale. When head teacher and separated mum of two Lucy, meets butcher, babysitter, and aspiring DJ Joseph, their age gap is just one of the obstacles in their path to finding love. This isn’t an overly sensational or dramatic tale, it’s more subtle than that, though it does cover three years during and after the EU referendum. Don’t groan, as Nick Hornby looks back in the most mindful way possible. Thoughts are provoked and rich pickings are to be found, as lots of little lightbulb moments clicked on as I read. The plot settled in the lightest of dances through some pretty weighty subjects. It’s not shouty, or finger-pointy, a relationship is created within a set of circumstances that allows you to form your own thoughts. I feel Nick Hornby has written the perfect story for anyone suffering from Covid 19 blues. Just Like You is an incredibly uplifting, engaging and stimulating read, and I absolutely loved it.
Carole Johnstone's Mirrorland is a creepingly compelling psychological thriller of the highest order - a dark, suspenseful debut with haunting atmosphere and pitch-perfect pacing as thirty-something Cat returns to her childhood home after a twelve-year absence when her twin sister El is reported missing at sea. As children, the sisters spent most of their time in Mirrorland, an imaginary world located beneath the pantry stairs. The girls also grew up with their mother telling them they were special identical twins. The egg separated late, “which meant we were more than just two halves of the same whole.” To Cal, this also meant El was “my exact opposite. My reflection. My Mirror Twin.” While the police and El’s husband Ross are certain El is dead, Cal is sure she’s still alive - who else would be leading her on a treasure hunt around Mirrorland? The trail of clues draws Cal back to their childhood with tremendous edge-of-seat tension, back to Clown Café, Princess Tower and Kakadu Jungle, where she and El used to encounter Mouse, the Witch, the Tooth Fairy and Bluebeard. Where they dreamed of meeting their imagined pirate king father in an imagined future. Following this trail forces Cal to peel back - and confront - layers of trauma from the past, to remember that “bad things happened in this house… but that was a lot easier to forget when I was an ocean away from its walls." Chillingly atmospheric, this un-put-down-able page-turner is perfect for fans of Gillian Flynn and Erin Kelly, with the magic realist elements created by the sisters’ fantasy world giving it extra edge.
If you’re looking for a unique, transportive, immensely satisfying read then I’ll wave frantically and recommend you stop right here. Laura agrees to assess Will to establish if he is still capable of living on his own, she begins to suspect that Will isn't suffering from dementia and that his strange story may actually be true. Keith Stuart is the author of the truly beautiful Days of Wonder and A Boy Made of Blocks, books that touch emotions, encourage thoughts, and cast a spellbinding atmosphere. I was hugely excited to read his latest and it effortlessly joins the others as particular favourites of mine. Each of his novels have been completely different, yet there is a thread of connection. He opens a door to a side of being human that you might not have seen and encourages emotions to flood your heart and soul. The Frequency of Us takes a step outside of what is known, edging into fantastical and I joined the story with trust and belief. Laura and Will formed a connection with each other and in turn with me. Two time frames allow access to the past, creating intrigue and a mystery that just begs to be solved. The ending really spoke to me and set my feelings free to soar. The Frequency of Us is a mesmerising read full of love and hope, and I’m thrilled to recommend it as one of our LoveReading Star Books.
An evocative and satisfyingly engaging story focusing on family, friendship, and hope. Ellie knows she needs to step beyond the sanctuary offered by her home and garden, but she hasn’t left it for over two years. Sitting alongside the main story in 2018, we also visit Romanian state orphanages with journalist Harriet in 1990 and the two stories begin to merge. I so love Catherine Isaac’s writing, she has the gift of transporting you both in heart and mind. She encourages a connection to her characters, and makes them relatable, even when exploring darkness. This is as much about Ellie’s relationship with herself as it is with others. The story explores trauma in an open yet balanced way and encourages thoughts to expand. I similarly adored Messy, Wonderful Us which journeys to Italy and I described as both heart warming and achy. The World at my Feet just has so much heart, it really is a lovely read.
WOW! What a fabulous and enjoyable read - read it in one sitting as needed to know what happened next. A tale of time travel from 2020 to 1982 - and back again. Following the story of Tom when he meets Beth - such detail in lives during the pandemic of 2020 and lives in 1982. Don't want to give too much of the story away - can't recommended it highly enough. I have just ordered one of her other books I am so impressed. Jayne Burton, A LoveReading Ambassador
Persephone's relationship with Hades has gone public and the resulting media storm disrupts her normal life and threatens to expose her as the Goddess of Spring. Hades, God of the Dead, is burdened by a hellish past that everyone's eager to expose in an effort to warn Persephone away. Things only get worse when a horrible tragedy leaves Persephone's heart in ruin and Hades refusing to help. Desperate, she takes matters into her own hands, striking bargains with severe consequences. Faced with a side of Hades she never knew and crushing loss, Persephone wonders if she can truly become Hades's queen. Contains mature themes.
The story of a family and a special dress, handed down from mother to daughter, during times of fortune, loss, tragedy and victory, by the world's favourite storyteller, Danielle Steel. The Deveraux family were among the most important members of 1920s San Francisco society, and the wedding of their daughter Eleanor to wealthy banker Alexander Allen would be the highlight of the 1929 social calendar. The wedding, held in the family's magnificent Pacific Heights mansion, was everything they'd hoped, and Eleanor's dress was a triumph. Designed by one of the most famous fashion houses in Paris, it was exquisite in every way. But the dream life, along with the most perfect honeymoon in Europe, was about to come to an end when Alex received news of the Wall Street Crash. It appeared that the family had lost everything . . . In the years that followed, the Deveraux lived through periods of huge social and political change. What helped to unite them was the beautiful wedding dress, first worn by Eleanor, which remained a family heirloom and continued to hold a special place in the hearts of a family desperate to survive the turmoil and changing fortunes of the times.
Lissa loves her job as a nurse, but recently she's been doing a better job of looking after other people than looking after herself. After a traumatic incident at work leaves her feeling overwhelmed, she agrees to swap lives with someone in a quiet village in Scotland. Cormac is restless. Just out of the army, he's desperately in need of distraction, and there's precious little of it in Kirrinfief. Maybe three months in London is just what he needs. As Lissa and Cormac warm to their new lives, emailing back and forth about anything and everything, finally things seem to be falling into place. But each of them feel there's still a piece missing. What - or who - could it be? And what if it's currently five hundred miles away?
Perfect beach reading - involving, emotional, poignant, sexy short stories from top women fiction writers. Better still, the short stories mean you don't lose track of time and end up with a lop sided tan!
A terrific collection of short stories from bestselling authors including Kate Mosse, Katie Fforde, Lee Child, Sophie Kinsella and Jodi Picoult. Here are stories of love, passion, mystery and hope - and the discovery that some of the more surprising things in life are often the most important...This is the must-have collection of the year.
A woman goes about certain rituals of sex with her second husband, sharing the bed with the ghosts of her sexual past. A beautiful young art student embarks on an affair with a much older, married, famous artist. A middle-aged woman struggles with the decline of her mother, once glamorous and still commanding; their fraught relationship causes unexpected feelings both shaming and brutal. A man finds that his father has died while in the midst of extra-marital sex and wonders what he should do with the body. And a boy sits in his Calculus class, fantasizing about a schoolmate's breasts and worrying about his father lying in hospital, as outside his classroom window the Twin Towers begin to fall.
A Maxim Jakubowski selected title. Coming after Snowdrops, A.D. Miller's Booker-shortlisted Moscow spy thriller, The Faithful Couple is a very different sort of creature altogether, a novel about male bonding, class and the vagaries of life, growing up and passing years that resonates deeply with both sometimes the voice and structural touch of David Nicholl's measured novels of ordinary people. Two young Englishsmen meet in California on an American gap year and forge a fascinating friendship in which envy and admiration make for awkward companions. An encounter they make whilst on a trip to Yosemite in which neither comes off with much honour will mark the rest of their lives and the ties binding them. The progress of their careers and love lives is examined at regular intervals with irony and acuity and their paths take surprising turns. A slow building novel of British manners that grows on you page by page. Essentially this is a book about friendship, the very flawed yet compelling relationship between two men, based on experience, elation and remorse. With strong psychological and sexual components, the terse prose style draws you into a very recognisable world yet seen through an intensely strange filter. A literary human drama of the highest calibre.
February 2016 Book of the Month. Coming after Snowdrops, A.D. Miller's Booker-shortlisted Moscow spy thriller, The Faithful Couple is a very different sort of creature altogether, a novel about male bonding, class and the vagaries of life, growing up and passing years that resonates deeply with both sometimes the voice and structural touch of David Nicholl's measured novels of ordinary people. Two young Englishsmen meet in California on an American gap year and forge a fascinating friendship in which envy and admiration make for awkward companions. An encounter they make whilst on a trip to Yosemite in which neither comes off with much honour will mark the rest of their lives and the ties binding them. The progress of their careers and love lives is examined at regular intervals with irony and acuity and their paths take surprising turns. A slow-building novel of British manners that grows on you page by page. ~ Maxim Jakubowski Essentially this is a book about friendship, the very flawed yet compelling relationship between two men, based on experience, elation and remorse. With strong psychological and sexual components, the terse prose style draws you into a very recognisable world yet seen through an intensely strange filter. A literary human drama of the highest calibre. ~ Sarah Broadhurst
October 2017 Debut of the Month The author is an American psychotherapist who sets her first novel in a Manhattan mental institute so bringing a large amount of authenticity to this thriller. Samantha, Sam, the golden girl is the obvious therapist to take on the newest, reputedly dangerous patient. At work she can do no wrong, at home she is a mess. In an abusive relationship, an alcoholic and badly lacking in self-esteem we do wonder if this isn’t the case of the blind leading the blind, hence the title. In fact one of her group session patients asks if a therapist should have suffered an addiction to truly understand the patients. Sam’s new, dangerous patient is a total enigma and it is around him the mystery of the novel revolves. With a fantastic twist which socks it to you in the closing lines, this tale, delivered in short, sharp chapters, over five months is a hugely intriguing read. ~ Sarah Broadhurst
February 2018 Debut of the Month. Oh my word, this is an absolutely cracking psychological thriller. Anna is unable to leave her house, she views the world from her window and connects with it on her laptop, when she witnesses a horrific incident in a neighbouring house, turmoil awaits. The first few pages set me on edge, and I remained on high alert throughout the story, doubting and questioning my own reasoning. Even if you suspect, you can’t be confident, and there are plenty of shocks and surprises lying in wait. Set over a few weeks, the short chapters whipped into my consciousness, yet the story reveals itself gradually. A. J. Flynn allows the tension to build, slowly, torturously, and exquisitely. Anna tells her own story, wounded herself, can she be trusted? When the revelations came, they spilled from the page and slapped my thoughts. So clever and focused, yet utterly mind-bending, ‘The Woman in the Window’ is a heart-hammering read and I highly recommend stepping into Anna’s world.
Oh my word, this is an absolutely cracking psychological thriller. Anna is unable to leave her house, she views the world from her window and connects with it on her laptop, when she witnesses a horrific incident in a neighbouring house, turmoil awaits. The first few pages set me on edge, and I remained on high alert throughout the story, doubting and questioning my own reasoning. Even if you suspect, you can’t be confident, and there are plenty of shocks and surprises lying in wait. Set over a few weeks, the short chapters whipped into my consciousness, yet the story reveals itself gradually. A. J. Flynn allows the tension to build, slowly, torturously, and exquisitely. Anna tells her own story, wounded herself, can she be trusted? When the revelations came, they spilled from the page and slapped my thoughts. So clever and focused, yet utterly mind-bending, The Woman in the Window is a heart-hammering read and I highly recommend stepping into Anna’s world.
What a truly beautiful read this is, light, bright and cheerful (yet not at all frothy), there are also some heartachingly deep and dark depths waiting to be discovered. It’s 1941 and Emmeline desperately wants to become a war correspondent, she somehow finds herself working for an agony aunt and begins to secretly reply to the letters Mrs Bird refuses to answer. Emmeline tells her own tale in the most wonderfully spirited tone of voice, I could hear her so clearly, and immediately warmed to her energy and courage. A.J. Peace weaves the story of sparkling, heartfelt friendship quite marvellously through the air raids, dances, blackouts and rationing. I found myself immersed in 1941, I opened my eyes and my heart to the characters and evocative descriptions. Part of me wanted to encourage Emmeline, to clap and smile as her subterfuge escaped notice, while the other part offered caution, a number of ‘eeeks’, and I had a cushion ready to hide behind just in case. Dear Mrs Bird is just so gloriously readable, it really is an entertaining, affectionate discovery of delight and I’m keeping my fingers firmly crossed that there is more to come from the gorgeous Emmeline.
How well do you know your girlfriend? How well do you know your lover? How well do you know yourself? Daniel and Victoria are together. They're trying for a baby. Ruby is in prison, convicted of assault on an abusive partner. But when Daniel joins a pen pal program for prisoners, he and Ruby make contact. At first the messages are polite, neutral - but soon they find themselves revealing more and more about themselves. Their deepest fears, their darkest desires. And then, one day, Ruby comes to find Daniel. And now he must decide who to choose - and who to trust.
June 2016 Debut of the Month. A light, flirty and oh, so much fun, debut novel by model and TV presenter Abbey Clancy. 22 year old Jess, a party entertainer from Liverpool has always dreamed of being a famous singer, so she can live like a star and look after her family. When she gets offered the chance of a lifetime, will it live up to her dreams? This is a wonderfully down to earth tale, even as it explores the heady price of fame. Jess is a loveable main character, she makes plenty of mistakes along the way, yet it is easy to emphasise with her. The quick, lively wordplay makes this a very modern romantic story and an enjoyable and entertaining read.
A light, flirty and oh, so much fun, debut novel by model and TV presenter Abbey Clancy. 22 year old Jess, a party entertainer from Liverpool has always dreamed of being a famous singer, so she can live like a star and look after her family. When she gets offered the chance of a lifetime, will it live up to her dreams? This is a wonderfully down to earth tale, even as it explores the heady price of fame. Jess is a loveable main character, she makes plenty of mistakes along the way, yet it is easy to emphasise with her. The quick, lively wordplay makes this a very modern romantic story and an enjoyable and entertaining read.
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!