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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.
So beautifully written, the chills prowl with unexpected menace to climb inside your thoughts, to lurk and provoke. Richard and Juliette’s son Ewan died at the age of 5, Juliette, convinced that her son is still in the house turns to a group of occultists, while Richard searches for the remains of a hangman’s oak tree opposite their home Starve Acre. Andrew Michael Hurley doesn’t waste a single word, each forms a web to create a picture as he captures the essence of a thought or thing. As the story grows, as the oak planted itself in my minds eye, the unsettling force of grief came to settle over everything. I sank into this tale and couldn’t leave, reading from the deep, dark and incredibly soulful first page through to the startling last in one heady afternoon. Folklore gathers in the background, grief preys on the unsuspecting, and a compelling story unfolds. Highly recommended, I have chosen Starve Acre as one of my picks of the month, and a LoveReading Star Book.
A lovely, gentle exploration of a bygone time, yet there is a quiet strength to this compelling read. It is also one of those books that just may surprise you. Violet Speedwell, still suffering the loss of both her fiancé and brother in the First World War, moves to Winchester in search of a new life. Canvas embroidery, bellringing, the surplus of women after the war, expectations and the judgement of society, all sit alongside each other as Violet explores new thoughts and feelings. Tracy Chevalier writes with true eloquence, the descriptions bloom, the characters sing, and she allows you to ponder, to consider. Notes of caution and unease pierce the tale, with occasional moments of biting intensity. Violet is fascinating, and I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with her. In the acknowledgements I found out about the character who actually did exist, and I now want to explore Winchester Cathedral. Expressive and beautifully readable, A Single Thread is an engaging and rewarding tale.
A fascinating, and uniquely spellbinding tale that examines life and death, choices and decisions, and encourages thoughts to both reflect and soar. Dawn survives a plane crash and is offered a ticket to wherever she needs to go, that choice sparks two possible futures. I obviously adored this book as it joins my Liz Picks of the month, if you go in unprepared though you may have mixed feelings. Before you start, please note that if you enter just expecting a relationship tale, then you should be prepared to discover, and learn, much much more. This gorgeous read comes with a healthy helping of Egyptology, you’ll learn about hieroglyphs, spells, and translations, all of which I gobbled up. This information does almost dissect the main two stories, occasionally creating a jagged edge, but I found it allowed me time to slow down, to think, to really examine the thoughts that this story was sparking in me. This is a tale that looks at death, and speaks of death in a connected way that perhaps we don’t allow ourselves to do. The Book of Two Ways is both provocative and reflective, joyous and sad, and it’s one that I certainly won’t forget in a hurry.
The perfect pick-me-up, this book delivers plenty of romance, smiles, and most importantly enfolds you in a lovely satisfying storyline too. Minnie would rather spend her birthday on New Years Day hiding under her duvet, as far as she’s concerned the last and first day of the year is jinxed. Then she meets Quinn who shares her birthday but otherwise appears to waltz through life, and the attraction is undeniable. Sophie Cousens has the most lovely refreshing style, a lightness of touch and sparkling wit walks hand in hand with considerate contemplation and emotion. Travelling back to the past ensured we saw what had affected, shaped and changed these two characters. I loved the ping-pong of little morsels of information, popping up to build a picture that we had access to, but Abbie and Quinn remained unaware of. Missed chances is the main theme here, but there is so much more on offer too, with access to Quinn ensuring this wasn’t just a one way Minnie street. The supporting characters are a lively bunch, with a mixture of personalities and issues keeping things interesting. Romantic, yes most definitely, This Time Next Year is also an amusing, thoughtful, and friendly read too.
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.
The ups and downs of real life sparkle with an extra glint in this thoughtful, warm, uplifting read that I completely adored. We focus on one family and 42 year old Freya as she tries to juggle her family, career, and a secret that is eating a hole inside her. Cathy Kelly has the most wonderful way with words, this book feels like a friend, and friendship comes with fabulous as well as thought-provoking times. While there are some unsettling moments, the author also knows when to gather you up in the most enormous hug. Oh how I loved Freya, she has an inner voice that is rather wicked and prods Freya’s insecurities into being. Teddy is the most wonderful little pickle and along with Mildred adds some well-timed moments of humour. Perfectly bittersweet, amusing, and big-hearted, I have included The Family Gift as a Liz Pick of the Month, it’s gorgeous.
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.
An enticing relationship tale with a difference, and just a touch of magic! After several decidedly difficult years the fabulously named Luna Lark travels to a remote Scottish island to make a fresh start. I must confess (and I’m really very sorry) that I hadn’t read any of Carrie Hope Fletcher’s books before. I initially wondered whether this would be a sugary sweet confection, but there is so so much more on offer here. I don’t want to tell you too much, as it will spoil the story, so I’ll just say to keep a close eye on the chapter headings! As I stepped inside the pages, as I realised what was happening, I gripped the book more tightly and got carried away by the story. Oh, and by the way, I simply adored the ending, it is rather special! A wonderfully easy book to read, In The Time We Lost touches love, kisses magic, and serves up an appealing and wonderfully engaging tale.
Huge, in fact, huger than huge klaxon alert as Cecelia Ahern has written a sequel to her truly wonderful debut, P.S. I Love You. It’s been seven years since Gerry died, and after Holly talks about his letters in a podcast, a group approaches her asking for help. I adore Cecelia Ahern’s writing, it just speaks to, and connects with my entire being. Confession time, I didn’t write any notes as I read, I just read for the pure pleasure of it. Which in itself, really makes a statement doesn’t it? Holly is honest, and entirely human as she initially tries to distance herself from the group. This is an older Holly, an altered Holly, she has moved on while Gerry and the letters have remained anchored in time. The other characters are absolutely fascinating, I grew to care about the group members and fell completely in love with Ginika. After reaching the end I found myself reflecting, the writing not only entered my heart, it also still sits in my thoughts. Postscript is just as brilliant, just as emotional, just as gorgeous, as P.S., and while linking so effectively to the past, grows into a truly beautiful novel in its own unique right. Explore our '80+ Books That Deliver a Hug' listicle for more feel-good or uplifting books.
Inspiring, gorgeous, powerful. The Lost Lights of St Kilda is a beautifully written story brimming with guts and determination. When Fred meets Chrissie in 1927 a love flickers into being, the memory of their time together remains with them through the challenging years ahead. This may be described as a love story between two people, it is also a love story about St Kilda, Scotland’s first World Heritage Site. Elisabeth Gifford has used fictional characters in a real setting, with the abandonment of St Kilda and the Second World War adding an incredibly vivid framework to the story. Taking place over forty years, the novel actually starts in 1940 with Fred as a prisoner of war, plotting escape. From here we move backwards and forwards in time, in such a way that the words continued to flow into my awareness and created an intricate patchwork of knowledge and understanding. This love feels real, there is an inner core of strength, hope, and resilience on offer that really spoke to me. I rather fell in love with The Lost Lights of St Kilda, it joins my Liz Robinson picks of the month and comes as highly recommended by me.
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.
Full of captivating charm this is a novel where secrets shelter, friendships form, grief is exposed, and romance hovers in the background. Injured army doctor Trevor Benson returns from Afghanistan to an inherited cabin in North Carolina, he is immediately attracted to deputy sheriff Natalie Masterson and intrigued by teenager Callie who was friends with his grandfather. It’s been 24 years since his wonderful debut The Notebook was published, and The Return is Nicholas Sparks 22nd novel. His books have been translated into 55 languages, all have been international bestsellers, 11 have been adapted into major films and you can see why. The prologue took me to 2019 and sent a hint of mystery thrumming through the pages before returning to five years earlier. The Return blossomed into a vividly painted picture in my mind, which in turn set in motion a moving story. It is slow to build, to reveal itself, yet is full of interest and gave access to knowledge which enabled me fill in the jigsaw pieces. I occasionally felt a little uncomfortable with Trevor’s unwavering pursuit of Natalie, but don’t forget this is very much written from his perspective and for a while the full picture hovers just out of sight. When the ending neared and understanding came, I settled in and waited with interest to return to Trevor in 2019. The Return is a thoroughly enjoyable and effortlessly readable romantic mystery, oh, and you get to meet some bees too!
Everything she touches breaks . . . Nell Ballard is a runaway. A former foster child with a dark secret she is desperate to keep, all Nell wants is to find a place she can belong. So when a job comes up at Starling Villas, home to the enigmatic Robin Wilder, she seizes the opportunity with both hands. But her new lodgings may not be the safe haven that she was hoping for. Her employer lives by a set of rigid rules and she soon sees that he is hiding secrets of his own. But is Nell’s arrival at the Villas really the coincidence it seems? After all, she knows more than most how fragile people can be – and how easy they can be to break . . . A dark, contemporary psychological thriller with a modern Gothic twist from an award-winning and critically acclaimed writer who has been compared to Ruth Rendell, P. D. James and Val McDermid. Rebecca meets The Handmaid’s Tale in Sarah Hilary’s standalone breakout novel.
Continuing the immersive, suspenseful story began in Tidelands, Philippa Gregory’s Dark Tides is a sweeping family saga that takes in the poverty and wealth of Restoration London, decadence and distrust in Venice, and hope and unrest in the New World. It’s 1670, 21 years after the events of Tidelands, and Alinor now runs a humble wharf warehouse in London with her daughter Alys, while her grandchildren Sarah and Johnnie are apprenticed to trades. The arrival of two visitors shakes their existence. Firstly, James, Alinor’s former lover who once failed her and now comes offering to share his wealth. And secondly beautiful Venetian Livia, widower of Alinor’s beloved son Rob, who comes in a whirlwind of glamour and ambition. While Livia and Alys form a close bond, and Livia promises to transform their lives if they’ll help her transport valuable antiquities from Venice, wise woman Alinor doesn’t believe Rob is dead, and so sends Sarah across the seas to discover the truth. Thousands of miles away, in the New World, Alinor’s ferryman brother Ned isn’t enjoying the new life he’d hoped for. A former New Model Army infantryman, he’d hoped “to get away from all the money-making and grabbing from each other.” Unlike his fellow Britons, he’s respectful of Native Americans, and with growing conflict between indigenous communities and the settlers, Ned might have to choose a side. I especially enjoyed Sarah’s sojourn in Venice - her voyage of discovery in this “city of spies” where “imaginings can come to life” takes as many twists as the tangled streets of Venice itself. She’s a fabulously adventurous character, determined not to “get stuck here, hoping for a man to rescue me." The narratives of London, Venice and America unfold with delectable drama, driven by the characters’ desires, and underpinned by a tremendous sense of time and place.
Oh how I adored this beautifully crafted and thought-provoking magic realist novel. The Thief on the Winged Horse sits in the real-world as we know it and contains an additional touch of magic. It also sways between genres including crime and relationship, yet feels as believable as can be. A world-famous doll making family is thrown into turmoil when their most valuable doll is stolen. These are dolls that can convey a single emotion to the person who holds them. Only the men in the Kendrick family know how to add the charm, only a Kendrick would know how to take the doll. Kate Mascarenhas adds mysterious layer upon layer to this novel, building an exquisite story. I immediately felt at home, the magic wasn’t meticulously explained, it was just there, sitting almost quietly in the background. This is a book where the world is known, but the enchantment isn’t, and my mind soared as I pondered and explored. I think it would make a perfect read for anyone wanting to take the first step into science fiction and fantasy novels. Multi-faceted, challenging, and entirely captivating, The Thief on the Winged Horse is a truly lovely read.
Spiralling down into darkness this fascinating and compelling historical novel is based on the true story of an inmate of Bethlam Royal Hospital (Bedlam) between 1800 to 1815. James Norris an American, was restrained, chained to a bar and confined in isolation for more than ten years, here Emily Bullock takes a look at possibilities and makes them fly. James tells his own tale, the words slinking, twisting, disappearing into the fog of his memory and thoughts. Bedlam broods its way through the centre of this story, with other inmates and the keepers affecting the atmosphere. As James visits the past in his mind, his relationship, role as seaman, and even Fletcher Christian, famous for his part in the mutiny on the Bounty all entwine to explain the man James has become. The writing sparked vivid details in my minds eye, and although my heart physically ached at times, there are also moments of hope to be found within the pages. Inside the Beautiful Inside is a rather special book, it opens a door and shines a penetrating light of awareness into the shadows of history. Highly recommended.
A fabulously perfect festive read that delivers oodles of heartwarming charm. This could easily be read as a standalone novel, but I do recommend starting with Happiness for Beginners as Christmas for Beginners continues the lovely story of Molly and Hope Farm. When I read the first few sentences: “One of the alpacas has eaten the Baby Jesus. I’m not sure which one. Frankly they all look the picture of innocence, but I know them better.” I knew I was in for a treat of a read. Carole Matthews takes the ‘up’ in uplifting and elevates it to a whole new level. She doesn’t shy away from the aches and pains of real life and it is this that makes her books so relatable. The characters of the farm animals ensure they sit front and centre, often eclipsing their human counterparts. Even here, in the middle of a freezing cold farm yard you can also discover humour, hugs, and merrymaking. Carole Matthews really is the most beautifully consistent writer and we just had to pop this into our LoveReading Star Books category. Christmas for Beginners is an absolute gift of a book and comes as highly recommended by me.
A really lovely, definitely quirky and uplifting tale that makes for a perfect pick-me-up read. While this could be read as a standalone it is actually a sequel, and I really do recommend first introducing yourself to the town of Coraloo and its inhabitants via The Death of Mungo Blackwell. Here, the focus moves to Roy and Margarette who have just become engaged. Their families are sworn enemies and either try to disrupt proceedings or lord it over their rivals. A mystery also flits between the pages, with Roy on the case. I really have fallen in love with Coraloo, it calls to me and is somewhere I’d love to visit if I could, even though as I’m not a citizen of the town and I’d be known as an ‘other’. The bizarre walks hand in hand with good old-fashioned hospitality. Lauren H Brandenburg balances sweet humour, crafty shenanigans, and glorious characters with an artful pen. There is something joyous about the The Marriage of Innis Wilkinson, it’s a little bit different, and a lot of fun.
With enough family drama and romance to please the most fervid romantic saga novel fan. This would also make a perfect gift as it starts and finishes at Christmas, with all the turmoil and excitement that the year between brings. As Sally Suggs struggles to continue the family rag-and-bone round in 1865, help comes from unexpected quarters. Sally is feisty, compassionate, and thoughtful, with two men quite obviously interested in her, she has a number of difficult decisions to make. Author Dilly Court has been writing novels for 15 years, and this is her 40th novel. She skilfully creates a story that gathers interesting characters, intrigue, and historical atmosphere to its heart. Rag-and-Bone Christmas is a warm-hearted, page-turning, festive feast of a novel.
Celebrate Christmas with the ultimate Shopaholic! A Sunday Times bestseller. The brilliant laugh-out-loud festive novel from the Number One bestselling author. Becky Brandon (nee Bloomwood) adores Christmas. It's always the same - Mum and Dad hosting, carols playing, Mum pretending she made the Christmas pudding, and the next-door neighbours coming round for sherry in their terrible festive jumpers. And now it's even easier with online bargain-shopping sites - if you spend enough you even get free delivery. Sorted! But this year looks set to be different. Unable to resist the draw of craft beer and smashed avocado, Becky's parents are moving to ultra-trendy Shoreditch and have asked Becky if she'll host Christmas this year. What could possibly go wrong? With sister Jess demanding a vegan turkey, husband Luke determined that he just wants aftershave again, and little Minnie insisting on a very specific picnic hamper - surely Becky can manage all this, as well as the surprise appearance of an old boyfriend and his pushy new girlfriend, whose motives are far from clear . . . Will chaos ensue, or will Becky manage to bring comfort and joy to Christmas?
Foreboding and chilling, this dramatic family tale creeps into your awareness and causes doubt and questions to multiply. When a tenant of a house in Bergan, Norway goes missing, owner and landlord Nina starts her own investigation. This is a novel to read slowly, to allow the words to sink in, so you can appreciate the pattern and movement. Agnes Ravatn (and translator Rose Hedger) have teamed up again after their award winning The Bird Tribunal. They have the ability to create one heck of an unsettling atmosphere, and this isn’t a comfortable read. The characters are flawed, feel so very real, and at times made me wince. Short abrupt sentences, the lack of quotation marks, and a marked jagged boundary between chapters creates a decided edge. Layers of unease built as I questioned everyone and everything, and the ending when it comes feels inevitable and perfect. Blanketed in an ominous sheet of tension, The Seven Doors is an intriguing, compelling and penetrating read.
A thoughtful, compelling, and provocative novel that may well challenge your understanding of the meaning of victim. When Amelie’s boyfriend is arrested on child sex abuse charges, lives are thrown into chaos and confusion. This story concentrates on celebrity, secrets, and greed and covers several different time periods between 2010 and 2019. Michael J Malone’s previous books range across genres, yet he has the ability as a writer to tackle difficult subjects with sensitivity while still ensuring an intense delivery. There were moments here where I truly flinched, yet he doesn’t exploit, rather explores and exposes thoughts and feelings with care and consideration. He focuses on the impact allegations can have on everyone involved, not just the main parties. The title has made a real impression on me, and it sits as a perfect accompaniment to the story. The three main characters stand in vivid isolation, even when surrounded by other people and the writing reflects the difficulties faced. A Song of Isolation is a cracking read, that could encourage your thoughts to travel in unexpected directions.
What an absolutely chilling and incredibly gripping tale this is! When Freya’s husband dies, her neighbour Mark begins to plot and plan his way into her life. The first chapter pulled me up short, it had so much power, the words in themselves so quiet, yet they hurled a storm of awareness at me. Focusing on either Freya or Mark the penetrating storyline had the ability to both draw me in and cause consternation. Stevie Davies has a beautifully twisted pen, her writing really spoke to me. The little things matter, they build to create the most unnerving picture of obsession and I almost wanted to read while hiding behind a cushion. Yet this isn’t an obvious in-your-face fright-fest, it is a thoughtfully observed piece with fully formed characters. Sliding its way rather stealthily into thoughts, The Party Wall is an intense, stimulating read. I didn’t want to put it down, and have chosen this novel as one of my Liz Picks of the Month.
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.
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!