Book Review: The Deserter’s Daughter.

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When the paperback version of Susanna Bavin’s debut, The Deserter’s Daughter, arrived in the post I Tweeted this photo with the caption: “That’s my weekend reading sorted.”

In reality, I turned the first page on Friday night and the next thing I knew it was 24 hours later and I was breathing a happy sigh as I closed the book. It is THAT GOOD.

I’m sure I didn’t sit reading the whole time – there is a four-year-old in the house, after all – but Mark did comment, ‘Is that book attached to your hand?’.

I wanted it to be. I fell asleep (way after my bedtime) worrying about the lead character, Carrie, and I woke up desperate to see where the story would lead her. Where it would lead all of them, really.

Here’s the blurb:

1920, Chorlton, Manchester. As her wedding day draws near, Carrie Jenkins is trying on her dress and eagerly anticipating becoming Mrs Billy Shipton. But all too soon she is reeling from the news that her beloved father was shot for desertion during the Great War. When Carrie is jilted and the close-knit community turns its back on her as well as her mother and her half-sister, Evadne, the plans Carrie nurtured are in disarray

Desperate to overcome private shock and public humiliation, and with her mother also gravely ill, Carrie accepts the unsettling advances of well-to-do furniture dealer Ralph Armstrong. Through Ralph, Evadne meets the aristocratic Alex Larter, who seems to be the answer to her matrimonial ambitions as well. But both sisters put their faith in men who are not to be trusted, and they will face danger and heartache before they can find the happiness they deserve.

I’m going to let you into a secret, I was really worried about reading this book. Usually I am open to new genres but family saga is one that I thought wouldn’t float my boat. Not only that, I have got to know and like Susanna over the last year or so – since she appeared in my second Behind The Book post – and I really wanted to love her book. (Not that I think she would have cast me aside if it wasn’t my cup of tea).

I feel a bit daft now that it took me so long to read it (the hardback came out in June last year).

If Susanna’s book is an accurate representation of the family saga then sign me up. She has created nuanced, believable characters, who I was invested in from the start, along with an absorbing and colourful narrative – all elements I enjoy in contemporary books.

And, far from distracting from the story, the historical aspect only added to it. She writes with honesty and sensitivity about what it must have been like to be a deserter’s daughter. I felt the shame of the family as sure as if they were my relations.

This is an accomplished book and an incredible debut. I can’t wait for her next one, which I will definitely be reading as soon as possible.

Format: Paperback.

Price: £8.99 (via Amazon).

My rating: Five stars.

With thanks to Susanna and her publishers, Allison & Busby, for the paperback in return for an honest review.

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Book Review: Sleigh Rides And Silver Bells At The Christmas Fair.

SleighridesIf you haven’t read any of Heidi Swain’s books before, Sleigh Rides And Silver Bells At The Christmas Fair is the perfect place to start but if you’re already a fan, I predict it will quickly become your new favourite.

As I was reading, it reminded me of something but for ages I couldn’t quite put my finger on what that was – and then it came to me, Jane Eyre.

Not so much the plot – although there are some similarities. Thankfully there’s no Bertha Mason in the attic, although there is something surprising up there, but the two main characters do come of age in one way and the heroine, Anna, is all on her own.

However, it was more Anna’s voice. She seems quite uptight and authoritative but underneath there’s a layer of vulnerability that I instantly warmed to.

Here’s the blurb:

When Anna takes on the role of companion to the owner of Wynthorpe Hall, on the outskirts of Wynbridge, she has no idea that her life is set to change beyond all recognition.

A confirmed ‘bah humbug’ when it comes to Christmas, Anna is amazed to find herself quickly immersed in the eccentric household, and when youngest son Jamie unexpectedly arrives home it soon becomes obvious that her personal feelings are going all out to compromise her professional persona.

Jamie, struggling to come to terms with life back in the Fens, makes a pact with Anna – she has to teach him to fall back in love with Wynthorpe Hall, while he helps her fall back in love with Christmas. But will it all prove too much for Anna, or can the family of Wynthorpe Hall warm her heart once and for all…?

It’s lovely to see the relationship between Anna and the hero, Jamie, unfold. Their chemistry is evident from the start but there are all sorts of things that stand in the way, not least that he is her employers’ son and she has a rule about mixing business with pleasure.

The supporting cast are fabulous and only added to my enjoyment. I loved learning the back stories of various family/employees as well as the healing magic that seems to happen at the hall.

The fictional town of Wynbridge is the backbone of Heidi’s books and while Wynthorpe Hall is out in the sticks, Anna makes multiple visits and it seems especially lovely at Christmas time (some of the stars of previous books also make welcome cameos). She even takes a trip into Norwich and, maybe it’s because I’m a local, but it made me smile to read about a place I had visited earlier in the day.

In fact, the only bad thing about this book is that I raced through it and it was over too quickly.

More please!

Format: Kindle.

Price: 99p:

My rating: Five stars.

If you’re interested, you can find out more about Heidi from my Behind The Book interview here.

Book Review: Moonlight Over Manhattan.

cover119479-mediumIt’s like Sarah Morgan has been inside my head.

She’s had a rummage about, moved some tumbleweed aside, picked out every single thing I like in a romance and then put them all in her latest book, Moonlight Over Manhattan.

It has the brave yet troubled heroine, the handsome, hot, brooding hero (who also happens to be an ER doctor), chemistry between the two that’s almost palpable, a charming supporting cast, a storyline which keeps you engaged from page one, and, as an added extra, a cute dog.

Tick, tick and tick.

Here’s the blurb.

She’ll risk everything for her own Christmas miracle…

Determined to conquer a lifetime of shyness, Harriet Knight challenges herself to do one thing a day in December that scares her, including celebrating Christmas without her family.

But when dog-walker Harriet meets her newest client, exuberant spaniel Madi, she adds an extra challenge to her list – dealing with Madi’s temporary dog-sitter, gruff doctor Ethan Black, and their very unexpected chemistry.

Ethan thought he was used to chaos, until he met Madi – how can one tiny dog cause such mayhem? To Ethan, the solution is simple – he will pay Harriet to share his New York apartment and provide 24-hour care. But there’s nothing simple about how Harriet makes him feel.

Ethan’s kisses make Harriet shine brighter than the stars over moonlit Manhattan. But when his dog-sitting duties are over, and Harriet returns to her own home, will she dare to take the biggest challenge of all – letting Ethan know he has her heart for life, not just for Christmas?

I’m no stranger to Sarah’s books (this is book six in this series alone, although they can all be read as individual novels) and they would automatically be on my must read pile but I’ve really been looking forward to Harriet’s story ever since her first mention.

Sarah has really delivered with this one, it’s a lovely warm story with plenty of emotion and the romance between them is so well written.

I felt instantly connected to shy Harriet and loved the way she tried to overcome her difficulties. In fact, Harriet and Ethan both seem very real which meant I was invested in their tale and stayed up later than I should have done for several nights while trying to finish it.

A well deserved five stars.

Format: Kindle.

Price: £4.49.

My rating: Five stars.

With thanks to HQ via NetGalley for the ARC in return for my honest opinion.