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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.
Three young friends set out on a summer road trip, each one carrying secrets and sorrows. Squashed into a battered old car, fuelled by warm beer and pub pies, they bicker and tease, with the ease that only comes from deep familiarity. We know even as they set out that they will never make another trip like this, that it’s the closing moment to one part of their lives. Filled with the sense of hot, dusty days, the lull between end and beginning, this is a classic summertime novel. More than just a coming-of-age story, it perfectly captures a transformative moment in the lives of its three central characters, and turns it into something that rings true for us all. ~ Andrea Reece
Forthright, funny Ayesha harbours dreams of being a poet and occasionally performs at a literary lounge, but her ambitions are somewhat hampered by her new teaching job and familial pressure to get married, a pressure that’s intensified by her stunning younger cousin’s countless marriage proposals. But Ayesha is adamant that she doesn’t want an arranged marriage, even if it means she might be doomed to spinsterhood. Then, courtesy of her best friend and a conference at her mosque, a few twists of fate throw Ayesha into contact with hyper-critical, conservative Khalid, who dresses like a time-traveller from several centuries ago and is utterly under his wealthy mother’s control. Cue much friction, farcical funniness and genuine soul-searching as Ayesha and Khalid embark on complex, intersecting journeys of discovery. Alongside serving up a sparkling love story, this debut also tackles meaty issues, from the rampant islamophobia of Khaled’s abhorrent boss, to the sexism Ayesha stands up to. Indeed, the criss-crossing sub-plots - both gritty and comic - keep the pages turning, and make this a treat for fans of romance with extra bite.
'By turns lush, gritty, wry, gothic and compulsive . . . a dazzling page-turner' Emma Donoghue, author of Room __________________________________ 'They say I must be put to death for what happened to Madame, and they want me to confess. But how can I confess what I don't believe I've done?' 1826, and all of London is in a frenzy. Crowds gather at the gates of the Old Bailey to watch as Frannie Langton, maid to Mr and Mrs Benham, goes on trial for their murder. The testimonies against her are damning - slave, whore, seductress. And they may be the truth. But they are not the whole truth. For the first time Frannie must tell her story. It begins with a girl learning to read on a plantation in Jamaica, and it ends in a grand house in London, where a beautiful woman waits to be freed. But through her fevered confessions, one burning question haunts Frannie Langton: could she have murdered the only person she ever loved? __________________________________ 'A book of heart, soul and guts...beautifully written, lushly evocative, and righteously furious. Frannie might be a 19th century character, but she is also a heroine for our times' Elizabeth Day 'An extremely powerful book that resonates long after the final page has been turned' Laura Carlin, the author of The Wicked Cometh 'Sara Collins has picked up the tradition of gothic fiction and made it brand new' Stef Penney, author of The Tenderness of Wolves 'A glory of a book' Stephanie Butland, author of Letters to my Husband 'A literary page-turner, an engrossing murder mystery, and a deep meditation on freedom, choice, and what it means to have a voice' Rebecca F. John, author of The Haunting of Henry Twist
A stolen sister. A daughter determined to uncover the truth. Belle Hatton has embarked upon an exciting new life far from home: a glamorous job as a nightclub singer in 1930s Burma, with a host of sophisticated new friends and admirers. But Belle is haunted by a mystery from the past - a 25 year old newspaper clipping found in her parents' belongings after their death, saying that the Hattons were leaving Rangoon after the disappearance of their baby daughter, Elvira. Belle is desperate to find out what happened to the sister she never knew she had - but when she starts asking questions, she is confronted with unsettling rumours, malicious gossip, and outright threats. Oliver, an attractive, easy-going American journalist, promises to help her, but an anonymous note tells her not to trust those closest to her. . . Belle survives riots, intruders, and bomb attacks - but nothing will stop her in her mission to uncover the truth. Can she trust her growing feelings for Oliver? Is her sister really dead? And could there be a chance Belle might find her?
As a young woman, Kiki lived and loved in Turkey, but returned to America after not taking to the isolated, ramshackle farm she and her husband moved to. Some thirty years on - single, widely read, worldly wise, but endowed with an endearing lack of pretension - Kiki connects deeper with her niece Reyna. When Reyna pulls out of driving for a criminal scheme her ex-con boyfriend is involved in, her act of defiance sets a succession of life-changing events in motion, waves that surge far and transform lives around the globe. The structure deftly weaves together different sets of people who are loosely linked by strands of shared experiences and events, such as the German travellers Kiki met on her former husband’s farm in Turkey. The stories of the various narrators are powerful, mesmeric and smoothly readable - I shall be seeking out everything this author has written.
A wonderfully provocative and emotionally beautiful read, where for one family, whether or not destiny exists becomes incredibly significant. We see snapshots in time, of compelling and expressive moments for Mukesh, Neha, Rakesh and Ba. Set in different time frames, and not told sequentially, we begin to see how events from the past create our future, yet is it destiny or free will that shape our movements, our decisions? Nikesh Shukla writes with a wonderfully light touch, yet he hits with hammer hard intensity. I laughed, I cried, I wondered at people’s propensity to hate, to fear, for violence. Each family member is so clearly and individually expressed, I particularly enjoyed getting to know Raks through the eyes of others, it actually made me feel more of a connection with him, for him. Poignant and stimulating, The One Who Wrote Destiny has an immense subtlety, the words dance across the page, before rising up from an unexpected direction to challenge thoughts and feelings - highly recommended.
20th Anniversary Edition When Griet’s father, a notable tile-maker, is blinded she goes to work for artist Vermeer to support her destitute family. She’s an outsider from the start, a poor Protestant in a well-to-do Catholic household who’s regarded with suspicion by her fellow staff, especially when she alone is entrusted to venture into the master’s studio. Soon enough Griet experiences the magic of artistic creation, of seeing colour anew, of seeing everything anew. But, as her passion for art is aroused so too is an ache of guilt as she grows ever distant from her family. Then there’s the attention and lusts of the handsome butcher’s son who seeks her hand in marriage, and the lascivious approaches of her master’s wealthy patron. The intrigue and tension of the Vermeer household, and the ebb and flow of life in a 17th century Dutch market town are described in painterly detail through Griet’s keenly observant eyes as a swelling scandal spills to the outside world from within the duplicitous household. At once a compelling page-turner and a tour de force of tension and coming-of-age turmoil, this novel remains a must-read for historical fiction fans some twenty years after publication.
An absolutely exquisite moment in reading time, and one to cherish. Concentrating on Leo and Lottie, from the world at war in 1916 to survival beyond, this is the last in the ‘West Country Trilogy’, however, The Redeemed can easily be read as standalone as I’ve stepped straight into the final book and adored it. I will admit that I do desperately want to read the first two now, and believe I will be able to do so without feeling as though I have missed out on the reading journey. Tim Pears writes with wonderful clarity, small details create a fully painted picture, every word matters and is perfectly placed. Life on board the battlecruiser came to stark realistic life while back in the West Country the farming community committed to the cycle of life. Leo and Lottie live in their moment, in their time, yet their story feels gracefully ageless and everlasting. With joy and heartache waiting to be discovered The Redeemed is an eloquent, gorgeous and fully satisfying read, it is quite simply, beautiful.
Everything changes for rural lad Emmett Farmer when a gloriously grouchy wise woman compels him to be her bookbinding apprentice. While this line of work is generally shrouded in superstitious fear, Emmett is shocked when his mentor explains that they “don’t make books to sell, boy. Selling books is wrong”. Rather, their gothically intriguing trade involves binding unwanted memories into books: ”Whatever people can’t bear to remember. Whatever they can’t live with. We take those memories and put them where they can’t do any more harm”. Most clients are wealthy; well-to-do gentlemen who have their servants and wives bound so they forget what wrongs their masters and husbands have done to them. No wonder then, that Emmett is horrified to discover a book bearing his own name, and so a tempestuous tangle of secrets unfurls. The plot is also fragrantly spiced with witty references to literary history and the novel as an art form: “It makes one wonder who would write them [novels]. People who enjoy imagining misery, I suppose. People who have no scruples about dishonesty”. Yet through the duplicity of her exquisitely crafted characters, and luminous storytelling, this tale reveals truths of the human spirit in a most entertaining and absorbing fashion.
If ever there was a book to fall completely in love with, this is it. Grace Atherton keeps certain parts of her deeply buried from everyone, yet it is the revelation of a joint secret that causes her life as she knows it to stop, how can she possibly restart it again? The first few sentences told me I was in for a real treat, I was intrigued, delighted in the style of writing, and then the end of first chapter… it was completely unexpected and caused my stomach to squirm. While this is a book to read with joy, it isn’t a gooey ride, it made me flinch, question and delve into thoughts. Anstey Harris has conjured such beautiful descriptions, they created a fully realised and vivid picture in my mind. Music and friendship pay a hugely important part in this book, the joy of each deeply embedded in the page, the words releasing themselves into my soul. I will admit to knowing next to nothing about cellos and violins, yet somehow I felt as though I did, I understood, I felt, I loved each instrument. I absolutely adore The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton, it is completely magical and I suspect that each time I read it (it is a book to return to), a slightly different story will await me. Highly recommended and one of my picks of the month.
Just gorgeous… this is an emotional and quite, quite beautiful read. After a particularly traumatic time at home, 13 year old Sal and her younger sister Peppa escape into the wilds of Scotland. Sal has spent a long time preparing, the wilderness beckons them, can they survive on their own? Sal tells their story, the first chapter is so clever, I started to realise what had been happening, and then a few carefully chosen, yet almost casually thrown away words, sent a shockwave running through me. I could clearly hear Sal’s voice, she is so individual and distinctive, her words entered my mind and expanded, filling my heart. Mick Kitson encourages the Scottish countryside to sing with intensity, while you can hear Sal, you can see and feel the clean and natural space she and Peppa find themselves in. Kindness flows from unexpected places, and love is behind every word shared by Sal, even in the darkness. Simple, beautiful, provocative yet touching, this is an outstanding debut, and a read I will return to again and again. Highly recommended and one of my picks of the month.
An intimate, beautifully told, occasionally rambunctious tale set in 17th century England. Ursula Flight was born at an inauspicious time, she tells her own highly entertaining, yet poignant tale from birth. Ursula bounded from the page into wondrous life, I could feel her emotions, her wild, kind, impetuous nature spoke to me. Anna-Marie Crowhurst has created a vibrant, stunning setting for Ursula, the countryside of her childhood is so beautifully imagined, I found myself looking around, smelling, touching, feeling. Ursula’s own writing is scattered through the novel, her thoughts, letters and plays allow direct contact with her, as when she writes she is free, and unencumbered by the morals of the time. I have to admit to feeling a certain amount of disquiet as I read, one part of me was in the present, living life with Ursula, the other part was wondering what would become of this spirited young woman. A blistering darkness slices through ‘The Illumination of Ursula Flight’ taking its turn in the orbiting dance of life alongside the colour and passion, which creates a truly wonderful captivating read, and I loved 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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