Book Review: A Vicarage Reunion.

cover130912-mediumIt is unfortunately still something of a taboo so the fact that miscarriage plays such a big part in Kate Hewitt’s latest book, A Vicarage Reunion, feels like an important step to me.

Having experienced two early pregnancy losses, I was drawn to this novel – the second in this series – but what kept me reading was the fact it’s a brilliantly told story, with barely suppressed emotions, which I knew had to come out eventually.

Here’s the blurb:

Welcome to Thornthwaite, a quaint village tucked up in England’s beautiful but rainy Lake District… where homecomings and surprises await the four Holley sisters…

Esther Holley, the eldest in the family, has always had her life firmly in control until a miscarriage knocks her off course. Two months later, still emotionally spinning, she separates from her husband Will, a sheep farmer and man of few words and moves back in with her parents.

Life as a singleton thirty something living in her parents’ house is miserable, but Esther is determined to re-boot her life, including going on a few unfortunate dates. She’s shocked when tight-lipped Will shows up on her doorstep determined to woo her back. They’ve been married for seven years, but Will wants to return to the beginning, dating and getting to know each other again.

New challenges face them as they start over–and new chances too. Can Esther and Will save their marriage, especially when faced with the hardest decision of all?

While it might be too raw to read if you’ve just experienced it, nearly seven years after my first loss I found the book comforting. Obviously everyone grieves differently but I could relate to the way not just Esther but also Will were dealing (or maybe not dealing) with what happened.

I’ll admit I wasn’t sure about Esther at first but the more I got to know her, the more I liked her – and in the end I desperately wanted her to have a happy ending.

The miscarriage was a catalyst for them splitting up but I also felt it helped them to understand each other better. They had settled into a rut after years of marriage, as can so easily happen, but this was their wake up call.

Despite the fact I haven’t read the first book (yet), I was able to easily understand the family dynamics at the vicarage and really enjoyed meeting the engaging cast of characters.

I thought the whole story was exceptionally well written and can’t wait to read more.

Format: Kindle.

Price: £1.99.

My rating: Five stars.

With thanks to Tule Publishing for the ARC (via NetGalley) in return for an honest review.

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A Look Behind The Book With Natalina Reis.

MeWhile Natalina Reis has written other genres, she always comes back to her first love – romance.

Currently working on her sixth novel, Natalina juggles writing with teaching and family life.

Her latest release, Blind Magic, came out in November has been winning lots of praise on Good Reads so I was delighted when she agreed to let me quiz her for my Behind The Book series.

Here’s what she had to say.

You’ve strayed into other genres but always come back to romance. What is it you enjoy?

Romance makes me happy, gives me hope that no matter how bleak things look, there is always hope. Love transcends everything else, even death to a certain extent. And of course, there is always the happy ending.

You wrote your first book at 13. Has writing always been your thing?

Yes, I’ve been writing ever since I knew how. I wrote stories even in elementary school. Being an introvert who had the worst time expressing my feelings, writing offered me a way of doing so. For some reason the written word was always a form of solace, of therapy for my soul.

That first book was a collaboration with your best friend, can you explain how that worked? Do you write together or do you do a bit and then send it to her?

We were both on spring break and we spent our evenings in my room discussing characters and parts of the plot. She would suggest something and I would suggest something else. Once we agreed on what to write, I would write it down as part of the story. It was fun. Even though I haven’t done anything like that since, I still enjoy when my critique partners or friends make suggestions. Some great ideas came out of discussions just like those.

Blind Magic for jpegs_frontcover310In Blind Magic your main character, Marcy, is a witch. What made you want to include that magical element?

Marcy happened as a happy accident to be truthful. She first appeared as a sidekick on Loved You Always where I needed her as comic relief and also as an outrageous way of helping my two main characters out of a very dangerous situation. Turns out Marcy became so much more than that. My sister was also a great inspiration for Marcy’s occupation and beliefs, since she has always been interested in the esoteric.

Did you already have an idea for Marcy’s story when you were writing Loved You Always?

I never expected to love her so much and I definitely didn’t expect the readers would fall in love with her as hard as they did. There were so many requests to write Marcy’s own story that eventually I gave in and wrote it. She is one of my favorite characters.

Blind Magic is winning a lot of praise. How does it feel to know your readers have connected with your story?

It’s amazing. As a writer I love all my characters, but to have others love and connect with them as well is heartwarming and makes everything worthwhile. One of my favorite parts of the publishing process is the beta readers’ comments as they read the book. Marcy got a lot of oohs and aahs. She really touched a chord in many readers’ hearts (and so did her man, Oliver) and I’m still shocked (in a good way) by the reactions.

You don’t just write about male/female relationships, in Lavender Fields your main character, Sky, an angel of death, falls in love with another man. Can you talk about what made you want to explore that angle?

I wanted to write a story that my son, who is gay, could identify with. But most of all I just wanted to write a love story. It just happened that the two main characters are both men. All my books have a few things in common, and one of those is the theme of diversity and universal love. In fact I wrote my first M/M romance when I was about 19 years old (a story that will never see the light of day!).

Let’s go right back to the beginning and talk about your first published book, We Will Always Have The Closet. How long did it take to write? Did you submit it to many publishers?

I wrote The Closet in 30 days during National Novel Writing Month. I polished it, hired an editor and on a whim participated on a Twitter Pitmad and was shocked to have a publisher request the full manuscript. I was offered a contract shortly after and I think I’m still in shock.

What are you working on now?

I’m currently working on a romantic comedy that started as a short story. It’s called Fictional-Ish and it’s set in Scotland where I lived for four years a long time ago. It’s a friends to lovers, second chance story with a lot of humor and, as in most of my stories, a bit of mystery drama.

Do you have any tips for writers?

Write, never stop writing no matter how much you doubt yourself. And don’t get too stuck on what the “experts” say because writing is as individual as humans are and what works for one writer may not work for another.

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What fabulous answers, a huge thank you to Natalina for taking part. I love that she wrote a story for her son and her writing tips couldn’t be more relevant to me this week when I’m having yet another crisis of confidence. I’m definitely going to be taking note.

If you’d like to connect with Natalina you can do so in various ways. On Twitter, Instagram,  Facebook, and, of course, you can buy her books via Amazon.

Book Review: Everything I Know About Love.

everythinglove.pngIf you’ve ever read articles about love and dating, chances are you’ve already come across Dolly Alderton.

She’s a popular London-based columnist, journalist, director, podcaster and now author of her memoir, Everything I Know About Love.

I’m always intrigued by people who write a memoir before they have even hit 30 – it has always seemed a bit self-indulgent in the past – but Dolly has plenty of life experience to share – and she does so in an open, warm, funny, often heartbreaking, style that, in my opinion, crosses generational boundaries.

Here’s the blurb:

When it comes to the trials and triumphs of becoming a grown up, journalist and former Sunday Times dating columnist Dolly Alderton has seen and tried it all.

In her memoir, she vividly recounts falling in love, wrestling with self-sabotage, finding a job, throwing a socially disastrous Rod-Stewart themed house party, getting drunk, getting dumped, realising that Ivan from the corner shop is the only man you’ve ever been able to rely on, and finding that that your mates are always there at the end of every messy night out.

It’s a book about bad dates, good friends and – above all else – about recognising that you and you alone are enough. Glittering with wit and insight, heart and humour, Dolly Alderton’s powerful debut weaves together personal stories, satirical observations, a series of lists, recipes, and other vignettes that will strike a chord of recognition with women of every age – while making you laugh until you fall over.

Everything I know About Love is about the struggles of early adulthood in all its grubby, hopeful uncertainty.

Once I started reading, it felt a bit like I’d fallen down the rabbit hole into a world very different from my own but one that was completely immersive (and hard to get out of).

Told in a mixture of stories and anecdotes, lists and vignettes, at times I found her style a bit chaotic – maybe a reflection of her life at that time? – and the inclusion of recipes felt a bit random; like she was simply jumping on the bandwagon.

There was definitely a story arc, of sorts. I won’t say ‘coming of age’ because that seems patronising but as Dolly shares her many and varied experiences with love, sex, friendship, family, alcohol, drugs, work and play, life lessons seem to be learned – although perhaps not immediately.

It is something of a rollercoaster read – and when she dipped I felt genuinely sad for her – but her empowering final chapter left me feeling really positive about her journey.

Format: Kindle.

Price: £7.99.

My rating: Four stars.

With thanks to Penguin Books (via NetGalley) for the ARC in return for an honest review.