Book Review: A Respectable Woman.

A respectable womanWith her second book Susanna Bavin has cemented her place as one of the country’s leading family saga writers.

Following the success of her debut, The Deserter’s Daughter, it must have been quite a feat to come up with a story equally as good but, in my opinion, she’s produced something even better.

And I don’t say that lightly, as I loved her first book, but this one charmed me even more.

Here’s the blurb:

After losing all her family in the Great War, Nell is grateful to marry Stan Hibbert. However, five years on, she is just another back-street housewife, making every penny do the work of tuppence and performing miracles with scrag-end. When she discovers that Stan is leading a double-life, she runs away to make a fresh start.

Two years later, Nell has carved out a fulfilling new life for herself and her young children in Manchester, where her neighbours believe she is a respectable widow. But the past is hard to run from, and Nell must fight to protect the life she has made for herself and her children.

From the first page, Susanna pulls you into the backstreets of 1920s Manchester so that when you’re done you’ll be wanting to scrub your front doorstep and send your children out to play in the street with their mates (although no noisy games on a Sunday).

It’s a hard life, especially for a single mother, but you get a real sense of community as Nell’s neighbours pitch in to look after her children while she works – although no matter how hard she toils, she’ll never be allowed to earn as much as a man. Interesting that we are still having similar conversations today.

Along with Nell, there’s a wonderful cast, including swoon-worthy Jim, the solicitor turned window cleaner, Mrs Brent, who takes the family under her wing and later has her kindness repaid, and two lovely young characters in the shape of Alf and the beautifully named Posy.

Then there’s the villain. Susanna seems to have a particular skill for conjuring up nasty pieces of work and Edmund is up there with the best of them. Thinking about him still makes my blood run cold.

The story is so well written, with wonderful little details from the period adding to the colour of the tale.

Having learnt my lesson last time, when I carried on reading long after my bedtime, I gave myself some much needed ‘me time’ while Freya was at school to enjoy this book. I am so pleased I did because, once again, I couldn’t put it down – even to make myself some lunch (unheard of).

I’ve already pre-ordered her next book, The Sewing Room Girl. Hopefully I won’t have too long to wait.

Format: Libby (borrowed from Norfolk Library Service).

My rating: Five stars.

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Book Review: One Thousand Stars And You.

cover138629-mediumThe one thing you can guarantee after reading an Isabelle Broom novel is that you’ll want to book a holiday – and this time you’ll be packing for Sri Lanka.

One Thousand Stars And You is a beautifully written tale of friendship and self-discovery with more than a touch of romance.

I was quickly swept into the story and was really quite surprised to find myself at the end – I even went and checked how many pages it was because I felt sure it couldn’t be over already, even though it clearly was. It just flows perfectly and there’s never a good point to put it down – so I obviously didn’t!

Here’s the blurb:

Alice is settling down. It might not be the adventurous life she once imagined, but more than anything she wants to make everyone happy – her steady boyfriend, her over-protective mother – even if it means a little part of her will always feel stifled.

Max is shaking things up. After a devastating injury, he is determined to prove himself. To find the man beyond the disability, to escape his smothering family and go on an adventure.

A trip to Sri Lanka is Alice’s last hurrah – her chance to throw herself into the heat, chaos and colour of a place thousands of miles from home.

It’s also the moment she meets Max.

Alice doesn’t know it yet, but her whole life is about to change.

Max doesn’t know it yet, but he’s the one who’s going to change it.

I sigh happily when I think of Alice and Max but that’s because I’ve finished the book and know how things end (I’m pretty sure that’s not a spoiler).

At the start they are both pent up and unhappy – although I’m not sure Alice realises it yet – but Sri Lanka, with its endless beaches, exotic wildlife, rich culture and historic sites, quickly begins to work its magic.

Isabelle has a wonderful talent for making the location almost another character in her books. I was lucky enough to travel there for work many moons ago but I know from her other novels that, even if you haven’t been, her colourful descriptions, seamlessly woven into the story, make you feel like you have.

Once again, Isabelle has crafted a wonderful novel with a cast who come alive on the page – and not just Alice and Max but their friends too.

While A Year And A Day will probably always be my favourite, her new book is a very close second.

Format: Kindle.

Price: £4.99.

My rating: Five stars.

With thanks to Michael Jospeh, via NetGalley, for inviting me to read it.

Book Review: One Day In December.

onedayDecIt was just a moment. Our eyes met, no, not met, more like collided, and something just…clicked – or at least it did for me.

Maybe he didn’t give me another thought. Maybe I only noticed him because he was wearing a tuxedo at 10.30am? Or maybe it was because he practically fell out of a BHS in his hurry but, whatever it was, even now, many, many years later, I remember him. I remember that feeling. It was a proper Mills and Boon moment.

And that little story is why I was instantly hooked by Josie Silvers far longer one.

It’s a page turner, that’s for sure. There are many twists and turns but I don’t think I ever actually guessed how it would end, not really – although I hoped it would play out the way I wanted.

Here’s the blurb:

Two people.

Ten chances.

One unforgettable love story.

Laurie is pretty sure love at first sight doesn’t exist. After all, life isn’t a scene from the movies, is it?

But then, through a misted-up bus window one snowy December day, she sees a man who she knows instantly is the one. Their eyes meet, there’s a moment of pure magic…and then her bus drives away.

Laurie thinks she’ll never see the boy from the bus again. But at their Christmas party a year later, her best friend Sarah introduces her to the new love of her life. Who is, of course, the boy from the bus.

Determined to let him go, Laurie gets on with her life. But what if fate has other plans?

Beautifully written, it captures the normal, messy lives of its engaging characters over a decade in a way that makes you want to keep reading. In fact, it felt like I was living the story with them.

At the start my heart was willing Laurie to tell Sarah the truth about Jack but my head was completely with the storyline. Why would you spoil your best friends relationship on the basis of just a look? Of course, it didn’t stop my heart aching for Laurie.

Josie Silver describes herself as a “unashamed romantic” and I think that comes across in the book, particularly the rather epic ending, which had me swooning.

I’ve seen it said in other reviews that this book would make a wonderful film and I wholeheartedly agree but it should be law that you must read the book first.

Format: Kindle.

Price: £4.99 (from Amazon).

My rating: Five stars.

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