Stories from the heart. This category combines Romantic Fiction with Sagas and Romance to create a collection of lovely tales. From rags to riches stories to tales of tight-knit communities, this carefully curated collection is bound to have the perfect match for you, and as the Beatles said, ‘love is all you need’.
A scorching and beautifully written epic tale set in 1348, a time that sends a jagged screech of fingernails down the blackboard of history. Step away from the present into the midst of the Black Death, to overwhelming fear and confusion. The moated centre of one estate in Dorset appears to offer sanctuary, yet the treacherous play of human emotions wreaks havoc. I am a fan of Minette Walters, she has the ability to look behind and beyond the obvious, and she is eminently suited to this new genre. A lot of characters are introduced, yet there is no confusion, each was clear in my mind, known to me and vibrantly alive. The descriptions took me directly through the words and into this compelling story. ‘The Last Hours’ is the first of two novels, it quickly puts down roots and takes hold, ensuring a gripping, striking and remarkably readable tale.
To those around her she was a loyal subject. In her heart she was a traitor. The Queen of the title is Elizabeth Mortimer 1371-1417, married to Sir Henry Percy (known as Hotspur) and upon his death to Thomas de Camoys. This is another of the author’s excellent retelling of the lives of medieval women. Written in the first person, this untangles history in a highly readable manner. It seems Elizabeth loved her first husband who assisted Henry IV to dethrone Richard II and was killed in battle. But in fact Elizabeth wanted her nephew, eight-year old Edmond, to become King but she kept this to herself. Upon Hotspur’s death he was pronounced a traitor and Elizabeth arrested. The King then gave her a choice, marry de Camoys or go into a nunnery. She married de Camoys, he was in his sixties, and the books ends with her settling into a harmonious relationship. I think the strength of this is that it is written in the first person, highly enjoyable.
May 2018 Book of the Month A tense, Hitchcockian psychological thriller in which nothing is as it seems, every truth might be a lie, and the past looms ever larger over the present, The Old You is a nail-bitingly modern slice of domestic noir. The Old You by Louise Voss A clever, gripping and thrilling tale that just demands to be read in one sitting. Lynn’s husband Ed has been diagnosed with Pick’s disease, a rare form of progressive dementia. As their world is turned upside down, odd things start to happen, and the past begins to cause waves in the present, causing Lynn to question her life and the man she married. Louise Voss writes with a cunning pen, snippets or huge wallops of information are slowly revealed, encouraging suspicion and turning thoughts on their head. I found my mind constantly ticking over and questioning everything. Lynn tells her own story, creating an immediate connection, yet it takes a while to get to know her, to understand her. ‘The Old You’ is a surprising, stimulating read, just be careful that it doesn’t lull you into false sense of security!
From the bestselling author of The Keeper of Lost Things, Ruth Hogan, comes another irresistible novel of unexpected friendships, second chances ... and dark secrets. Gloriously gorgeous in every way. After tragedy crashed into her life, Masha often sits on the bottom of the pool at the local lido, unable to look forward, to join in. Sally Red Shoes and Kitty Muriel nudge Masha’s awareness, and life begins to look interesting again. I absolutely adored ‘The Keeper of Lost Things’ which was one of my books of the year 2017, so looked forward with relish to Ruth Hogan’s next offering. ‘The Particular Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes’ is just as special, and cements this particular author as one of my firm favourites. Ruth Hogan has the very special ability to look beyond the veil of unremarkable to find a sometimes painful, yet beautifully quirky existence. Each character (and I include the dogs in this), is fully realised and absolutely essential to the storyline. Kitty and Sally are so stuffed full of life I found myself wanting them in my life too. Words such as enchanting, captivating, and charming are spilling out of my mind, yet this is not a sickly sweet tale, also added to the mix are poignant, emotional, heart-ache…and I both laughed and cried, sometimes at the same time. Quite simply, ‘The Particular Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes’ is a must-read, and I adored every single second of it.
Another intensely vivid and expressive tale from Dinah Jefferies, on this occasion set in 1930’s Ceylon. All of Dinah’s books can be read as standalone novels, however ‘The Sapphire Widow’ is visited by characters from ‘The Tea Planter’s Wife’ so perhaps start there (though you certainly don’t have to). Louisa Reeve has her life torn apart after the unexpected death of her husband, as she tries to understand the hidden part of the man she loved, she finds a potential new life opening up before her. Dinah has the ability to create beauty and pain with the written word, to evoke feelings and to open minds. The pages waft scent, flavour, sound, I could almost stop, breathe in, and let the words settle around me. The story flows allowing you unfettered access, unease skittered across my awareness, heightening my anticipation and concern. ‘The Sapphire Widow’ is a gorgeous captivating tale full of emotion, and it took me outside of myself into a different world. ~ Liz Robinson
March 2018 Book of the Month Oh my, this is a fascinating, darkly powerful novel with biting attitude, set in Victorian Edinburgh. In the laboratory above a newly opened pharmacy, a wonder-drug is created, as the pharmacist experiments, his wife of six months discovers a world she couldn’t have imagined. Kindness and love sit at the very heart of this novel, however light can be so easily doused, and a bleak and twisted shadow menaces the pages. This may be a blistering Victorian drama, yet the characters feel so very real, their thoughts and feelings could easily be exposed today. Vanessa Tait writes with a provocative, combative pen, my mind flinched, my heart ached, and yet hope existed within the very centre of my being. Raw, elemental and disturbing, The Pharmacist’s Wife is an entirely captivating, enthralling read - highly recommended.
March 2018 Book of the Month I am William Lee: brute; liar, and graveside thief. But you will know me by another name. A fiery, emphatic and intense glimpse into the missing years of Heathcliff. Leaving Wuthering Heights and naming himself William Lee, Heathcliff travels through the north of England, revenge forming on his mind. If you haven’t read ‘Wuthering Heights’ there is no need to look away, this could be the entrance to that fascinating world. I do feel you need to be aware that obscenities crop up, in fact sometimes litter the pages, and while this may put people off, I would advise looking beyond the surface to what lies beneath. The book opens with anger and deep rooted pain, William’s thoughts flare into being, the searing honesty and heat almost made me flinch. Michael Stewart allows William’s innermost being to spill onto the pages, William is so matter of fact about pain and suffering, about the world around him, the stark reality of the times seared their way onto my soul. And then there are the descriptions, the beautiful, eloquent descriptions of the countryside, the rural life, the old words. While rage, hurt and confusion swirl in a maelstrom of emotion, tenderness, love, and compassion lie waiting, biding their time. Yes ‘Ill Will’ is provocative, it is a disturbing, striking read, yet also strangely beautiful, and personally, I loved it.
My goodness me did these two have a passion, a chemistry that burned so bright it was painful to behold. They, Lucy and Gabe, met on 11 September 2001 in New York as the world changed and so did their lives. We follow them through Lucy’s conversation with Gabe over thirteen years as each has a dream that needs to be fulfilled, a dream of doing something important in the world. Together or separately they know not but follow that dream they must. We discover a lot about Lucy’s life, little about Gabe’s except when it crosses Lucy’s. She marries Darren, has two children, is happy and loves him. But there are many types of love and the one that burns for Gabe is wild fire and will not die. This is extraordinarily romantic, the stuff that goose bumps are made of and a joy to read. Evocative, moving and intense it is a very impressive work. The author has written several children’s book, this is her first adult novel. If you like Jill Santopolo you might also like to read books by Lisa Jewell, Jojo Moyes and David Nicholls.
February 2018 Book of the Month. A deliciously readable, entertaining and enjoyable novel from Katie Fforde. Fran leaves her life behind for a dilapidated farm in the Cotswolds, she has just one year to make it a success. I always rub my hands with glee when I pick up Katie Fforde’s new novels, I create some ‘me time’, and settle down to relax and sink into the pages. ‘A Country Escape’ flows so beautifully I forgot myself and where I was, I just became at one with the book and immersed myself completely in Fran’s world. Katie Fforde has a wonderfully light touch, I always feel I am in trusted hands, all of her characters are fascinating, relatable, and (mostly!) likeable. A Country Escape is quite simply, captivating, charming, and an absolute delight.
February 2018 Book of the Month. Another joyful hug of a read from Katie Fforde, what more could you want, than to settle down with her latest book! Philly, Lorna and Anthea, all wonderful ladies, in various stages of their lives, sit centre stage in this delightful story. Set in a friendly community, with a garden to restore, will love pay a fleeting visit or settle in for a longer stay? As to be expected, the three main characters are surrounded by a lovely cast of friends, as life throws gravel, pebbles, and socking great boulders in their path. Katie Fforde has the wonderful ability to put a smile on my face, and I feel re-energised and ready to face the world again when I finish her lovely tales. To be honest, her stories speak for themselves, I really only need to tell you that the latest Katie Fforde is out, and it’s the warm and very charming ‘A Secret Garden’. Click here to read an exclusive interview with Katie Fforde by Mary Hogarth.
An emotionally tough read that tells a story which must not be forgotten. Based on the lives of two of the central characters, Sophia and Misha, it centres on an orphanage in the Warsaw ghetto during the Second World War and of the work of Dr Janusz Korezak, the Good Doctor of the title. The story begins in 1937 when Poland is independent. The anti-Jewish bigotry festering in fascist Germany is slowly spreading throughout Central Europe but life is still pleasant in Warsaw. Misha and Sophia are in love. There is a charming chapter when, in July 1939, the children from Korezak’s orphanage are taken to the country for a month of games and fresh air; an idyllic time and a poignant contrast to the horror to come. I do not need to tell you what happens, just to mention the word Treblinka is enough. Getting there in August 1942 is harrowing yet compulsive reading as we follow the adventures of Misha and Sophia and indeed the wonderful Dr Korezak. There is a postscript about the site today where a large stone monolith commemorates the awful events carried out there. It is surrounded by smaller stones each representing a village, town or city from which the Jews and Romanies were taken. Only one stone has the one word, Korezak.
An entertaining and charmingly poignant portrait of a provincial widower’s burgeoning new life following the death of his wife. It’s 1964, and 57 year-old antiques dealer George has lost his wife after they’ve lived a contented sort of life for the past twenty-six years, but he still has his beloved Bassett hound Monty, along with a heart that aches with a readiness to be filled anew. Indeed, George brims with a swirling sense of new possibilities: “Life. It meant walks holding hands in meadows freckled with buttercups… It swept him across grand landscapes; it meant riding bareback over the plains.” As he gets on with his business, his wife’s friends - an ensemble of larger-than-life, amusingly evoked characters - rally around with pies, while George himself feels frisson after frisson of desire. He’s an endearing, generous-spirited character, a gent who radiates a cosy glow of affection, and readers will truly root for him as he lays his heart bare, sometimes feeling “as if he had strayed off the edge into the unknown, like in the old maps – the mysterious, foggy territory”. Flawlessly rounded off by a heart-lifting twist, this is a delightfully tender read. ~ Joanne Owen
Love’s Labours Found
Some people say it’s not their cup of tea. But have they tried every blend? From handsome aristocrats to family feuds, holiday flings, to forbidden fruits; local community taboos to young love’s dream there’s something here to ignite passion in the hardest of hearts.
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A selection of authors who will feature in this Lovereading category include: