Book Review: The Spark.

thespark.pngFun, fulfilling and fast-paced, Sylvie Stewart’s latest book, The Spark, is also a masterclass in how to write a strong, sexy heroine with a hint of vulnerability that a reformed playboy hero simply can’t resist.

The story moves along at a cracking pace and while it takes a while for Fiona and Mark to actually meet, we learn a lot about their backgrounds in the meantime – and it really helped me warm to them.

I did struggle at first with the book’s bright and chatty style but that could have something to do with the last book I’d read, which was a bit more serious than I was used to.

I soon got into the swing of it – and when I did, I couldn’t put it down.

Here’s the blurb:

When your back is against the wall, can you change the person life’s experiences have molded you to be?

Fiona Pierce is many things to many people. Dutiful daughter to her loving parents, fiercely loyal friend to her very tolerant bestie, half-assed employee to her laundry list of bosses, and dedicated fashion goddess and spreader of good cheer to the world at large. But Fiona is hiding something behind her irresistible smile – something she’s determined to keep to herself.

Mark Beckett doesn’t do complicated. Saddled with lingering baggage from his childhood, Mark sails through life one girl at a time – with frequent gym breaks in between. He likes his life just how it is and doesn’t see any need to change his work-hard/play-hard attitude.

When an unexpected blast from the past threatens to turn his family’s life upside down, Mark finds help in the unlikeliest of places – specifically the pint-sized princess who has a knack for pushing his buttons.

Can you overcome your fears and embrace the happiness you might just deserve? And, perhaps more importantly, can you really fall in love with someone who is so damn insufferable?

If you’re looking for a quick fix of romance, this is for you. The chemistry between Fiona and Mark is irresistible – and the spark soon bursts into flames. It was such fun witnessing them get together. There are some great scenes that genuinely made me chuckle.

It’s the second book in the Carolina Connections series – although works as a standalone. The first has definitely won its place in my “To Read” pile.

Format: Kindle.

Price: £2.46.

My rating: Four stars.

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

Book Review: A Bend In The Willow.

abendintheIf you’re anything like me, you will want to give your child an extra long hug after reading A Bend In The Willow by Susan Clayton-Goldner.

This beautifully written tale tackles some very difficult subjects but I was left with an overall feeling of hope.

Part of that is in the almost poetic prose which gives the darkness its light.

Switching between past and present, it really plays a tune on the heartstrings and I had tears streaming down my face as I read the final chapter.

Here’s the blurb:

Willowood, Kentucky 1965 – Robin Lee Carter sets a fire that kills her rapist, then disappears.

She reinvents herself and is living a respectable life as Catherine Henry, married to a medical school dean in Tucson, Arizona.

In 1985, when their 5-year-old son, Michael, is diagnosed with a chemotherapy-resistant leukemia, Catherine must return to Willowood, face her family and the 19-year-old son, a product of her rape, she gave up for adoption.

She knows her return will lead to a murder charge, but Michael needs a bone marrow transplant.

Will she find forgiveness, and is she willing to lose everything, including her life, to save her dying son?

Robin Lee/Catherine’s voice came across loud and clear throughout the novel – and it changed as she did, perhaps losing some of her southern-ness as she moved to reinvent herself away from her bluegrass roots.

There is no doubt parts of it are hard to read, almost relentlessly so, but it is compelling and definitely deserves my first five star rating of the year.

Just make sure you have your hankies at the ready.

Format: Kindle.

Price: 99p.

My rating: Five stars.

With thanks to Tirgearr Publishing (via NetGalley) for the ARC in return for my honest opinion.

Book Review: Whatever Happened To Vicky Hope’s Back Up Man?

cover101215-mediumAh, to be 21 again. When the world feels like it is spread before you – and 30 seems like some distant planet requiring an epic journey to reach.

For Laura Kemp’s creation, Vicky Hope, it arrives all too quickly – and while she has certainly had her share of adventure, she is really not where she thought she’d be (how many of us are?).

The breakdown of her long-term relationship (on her birthday) also leaves her homeless and means heading back to a single bed in her childhood home.

After a lot of soul searching she begins a quest to find her two former best friends but while there is a lot of water under the bridge, it might not be that easy to confine it all to the past, as she soon discovers.

Whatever Happened To Vicky Hope’s Back Up Man is a charming tale, funny in parts, sad in others but enjoyable throughout.

Here’s the blurb:

Twenty-one and insecure, Vicky Hope comes up with a plan on the eve of travelling the world with her high flying friend, Kat Lloyd: if she isn’t married by the time she’s thirty, she’ll marry her geeky best mate Mikey Murphy.

Fast-forward eight-and-a-bit years, Vicky, now Vee wakes up on her 30th birthday in Brighton, expecting a proposal of marriage from her arty boyfriend Jez. Instead he tells her their relationship is over and she has no choice but to return to her parents’ home.

Devastated and alone in her childhood bedroom, she decides she has nothing to lose and tracks down her two old mates.

With shock, she discovers Mikey, now Murphy, is a successful app designer driven by his tragic upbringing. Kat, or Kate, never made it – but she hides a devastating secret, which threatens the happiness of all three.

I’ll admit, when I first read the synopsis, I thought it would be a straight-forward, breezy read but it’s so much more than that – and all the better for it.

Laura Kemp has nailed what it feels like to be 21 and 30 (or how I vaguely remember them) as well as the complications that often come with friendships – especially when so much has changed in the intervening years.

Add in a fantastic plot and you have a proper page-turner.

Format: Kindle (out now).

Price: £2.48.

My rating: Four and a half stars.

Thank you to Aria (via NetGalley) for the ARC. All views are my own.