#BookReview By Lou of The Locked Away Life By Drew Davies @Drew_Davies @bookouture #ContemporaryFiction #HeartwarmingRead

The Locked Away Life
By Drew Davies

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I have a review of The Locked Away Life by Drew Davies, thanks to the publisher, bookouture an immersive, heartwarming read with chance encounters, different lives and secrets. Discover the blurb and full review below.

 

Blurb

A lonely soul is on the verge of giving up. Can the kindness of a young stranger save her?

Esther has shut away herself in her vine-covered manor house on the top of a hill for as long as she can remember. Everyone in the village whispers about the scandal that broke her heart. She has cut herself off from the world – until now. Now, she needs help uncovering the mystery that has plagued her for decades…

On a sunny spring day, eighteen-year-old Bruno is in the local library when he spots an advert. The old lady on the hill is looking for internet lessons, and Bruno sees his chance. Forever the outsider, he can’t wait to escape the sleepy village – the paid position could be his ticket out of there.

Esther and Bruno have nothing in common, except that they are both in hiding, and their secrets are stopping them from truly living… Esther must come to terms with her past, and Bruno needs to figure out his future. Can these two strangers save one another?

Just as heartbreaking as it is heartwarming, this page-turner is for anyone who has ever felt left behind or came close to giving up. Perfect for fans of Sally Page, Ruth Hogan and Mike Gayle.

Review

Unusually, there are two prologues. The first is heart rendering, with Bruno and the second, a terrifying moment with Esther and then it folds out into chapters with these two main characters, alternating with their colliding stories as it goes along as it explains all, how these 2 people meet. It goes right back to a chance encounter of 18 year old Bruno and an advertisement in the community library, one that is a book swap bit of a hair salon. Bruno answers the ad and this is when life changes for him and Esther, an older lady who requires some help. She’s funny in a way, in the beginning as in haha funny and quirky as well as in the tricky sort of manner of the word.

Esther needs help and Bruno needs money, so takes up the offer. She’s got quite a history and quite an attitude to growing ever older. She is also determined or stubborn and has decided she never wants to leave the Manor House she rattles around in. She would say determined, I’m sure, whereas Jane will reckon more stubborn and sees how Esther is no longer able to be as independent as she once was, which she recognises a little herself, as in a smidging.
It’s an interesting pairing, but a good one, showing young and old can come together in all sorts of circumstances and there be a maturity and a developing of that relationship of sorts, and with it’s these characters, it is engaging to see how they develop in their lives. It is intriguing to see the eaking out of secrets and how they both essentially needed each other, but prior to the chance encounter of an ad, they weren’t aware of each other’s existence.
There is also, throughout the relationship between Bruno and Dominic throughout, which brings some exploration of romance and queries around that and sexuality. It also then weaves into conversations with Esther.

Interestingly, it all ends in 2 epilogues. 1 for Esther and on for Bruno,

The manner the conversations come together are not only well observed, but make reading this book immersive and easy to lose yourself in the book’s, sometimes heart-rendering, sometimes heartwarming pages.

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#Guestpost by Susan Buchanan of One Day – Autumn @susan_buchanan @rararesources #contemporaryficton #JustOneDay #Autumn #BlogTour #Travel #AuthorTakeover #GuestSpot

 

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Today I am hosting a lovely and fascinating  guest post about the importance of travel as Susan Buchanan takes over my blog today by the author of the Just One Day series. Her latest book is Just One Day – Autumn, others are set in Spring and Summer. Do take a look at the book and blurb and what Susan Buchanan has written.
Thanks first for the opportunity by Rachel Random Resources to be on the blog tour and for the time taken by Susan Buchanan.

For fans of Sue Moorcroft, Jill Mansell and Holly Martin

“I think Susan has a real gift for conveying the warmth and humour in her characters and reflecting the reality of people’s lives

Pregnant Louisa is just getting back on track when life throws her another curveball. Now, it’s not a case of how she’ll get through her to-do lists but how she’ll manage being a mum again.
No one seems to understand. How will she run her company, be partner in a new venture, look after her three kids and handle a newborn? And why does everyone think this will be easy? Except her.
All Louisa wants is to be a good mum, wife, friend, sister and daughter, and have a bit of time left for herself, but sometimes that’s too big an ask. Can she find the support she needs, or will she forever be pulled in too many directions, always at the mercy of her to-do lists?

The Importance of Travel

I’m Sagittarius, and apparently Sagittarians are born travellers. Totally true of me, although these days with the kids, not so easy to achieve!

It had been a while since I included any travel elements in my books, so I took the opportunity in Just One Day – Summer and Just One Day – Autumn to reintroduce travel as when I read, I love to be transported to places I’ve been, and never been, before, and I figure I’m not alone!

In Summer, Louisa heads off on a business trip to Madrid, a place I’ve been a few times. My first memory of Madrid, however, is not of the city itself, but within the pages of a book. I speak fluent Spanish, but when I first started learning, when I was about ten, I had a book called A School Spanish Course. I loved it, couldn’t get enough of it, and one of the lessons was about El Retiro park in Madrid. Suffice to say, when I finally visited Madrid, once I dropped my stuff off at the hotel, it was the first place I visited. It’s so tranquil, full of families taking a stroll, ponds, little cafés, kids playing, people picnicking, but the park is huge, with woodland walks heading off in all directions. It is my happy place in Madrid, right in the heart of the city. In fact, as I write this it makes me yearn to go back!

In Just One Day – Autumn, Louisa heads to Bergamo in Italy. I love Bergamo! I haven’t been for a long time, but I’ve been a couple of times for work and a couple of times for a holiday. It’s one of those destinations Ryanair helped me get to easily and it didn’t cost so much to reach it. With its Città Alta and Città Bassa – literally ‘the high town’ and ‘the low town’, and its rich history, it sold itself to me the moment I stepped into it.

And it’s always nice to have a guide. I’ve been with Italian friends several times – somehow you always end up learning more when in the company of the natives!

But Bergamo for me is about the quintessential pavement cafés in the little squares, the tiny boutique shops and the guest house I fell in love with way up in the gods of the city. In Autumn, there is a classy hotel, Hotel Relais, which I’m hoping to visit at some point – naturally – because of all the wonderful things I mention about it in Autumn, but the shuttered windows and terracotta tiles of the guest house I visited will always stay with me, so much so I recommended to a friend for their honeymoon, and they went and had a fab time. 

And at the centre of all I love about travel, and how it features in my books, is food. Now, I’m the first to confess, I don’t cook much. I can cook, but to be honest, my husband’s a far better cook and it doesn’t take him three hours to cobble something together, nor does he have to painstakingly buy everything off a Jamie Oliver recipe before getting started in the kitchen! However, I love food, and eating it, and I love trying new food, from all over the world. Much of what we find in Spain and Italy is widely available in our supermarkets nowadays, but not all, and even if it is, we often don’t know, without help, what to do with these wonderful ingredients.

I have a confession to make: I like when people get hungry when they read my books! It means I have portrayed well the sights, smells and flavours of the food of the region I’m talking about. And both Madrid and Bergamo have plenty to offer, as you’ll see in the Just One Day series.

And if you fancy getting hungry whilst reading more of my books, may I suggest the cuisine of Tuscany in Sign of the Times, that of Barcelona in The Dating Game, or if you have a sweet tooth, that of all the Christmas cakes from around the world in The Christmas Spirit.

 Expect more travel in my books to come. Sicily features in the book I’m writing right now, and Hong Kong in the one after.

It really is true what they say – travel broadens the mind!

 

#BookReview By Lou of 50 Books To Read If You’re… A Hopeless Romantic By Eric Karl Anderson @lonesomereader @MurdochBooksUK @RandomTTours #50BooksToRead #HopelessRomantic

50 Books To Read If You’re A…
Hopeless Romantic
By Eric Karl Anderson
*****

Today I am pleased to be on the blog tour to review this list book that gives you a bit of insight of 50 great romantic books. Thanks first to Random T. Tours for inviting me to review and to the publisher, Murdoch Books for the book and lights and love heart sweets (see pics below). The sweets are eaten, the book duly read and scrutinised and the lights were on the mantle piece, but will be part of my Christmas decorations in December. Now, onto discovering the book through pics, the blurb and my review.

Books to Read If You’re a Hopeless Romantic is the perfect gift for book-loving friends.

Discover lesser known books and revisit forgotten romantic classics with 50 Books to Read If You’re a Hopeless Romantic.

Whether you’re a Bridget Jones fan or a Pride and Prejudice devotee, bibliophile and book blogger Eric Karl Anderson will introduce any fans of love stories

to some new and unexpected novels. The book includes an interactive element with space for star

ratings, lists of favourite reads, thoughts and dates for beginning and finishing books.

Encompassinga range of authors and books, from classic to contemporary, 50 Books to Read If You’re a Hopeless Romantic offers the lucky reader plenty of scope to discover the best romance books across the globe.

Review

Discover 50 romantic books through different eras, from historical to contemporary, the author has thought about something for everyone who takes pleasure in this genre. Within this , you’ll find books dating from the 1800’s right up to present day. It takes readers to, perhaps well-known books such as Wuthering Heights, The Graduate, One Day, Bridget Jones Diary, Gone With The Wind, Normal People, Never Let Me Go, The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy, Open Water to name but a few, to perhaps, lesser known books for these days such as The Well of Loneliness, The Price of Salt, The Narrows to name but a few.

This is more than a list that the author has compiled, you’ll find a bit of information about the books that will be sure to inspire. It is a bit like an unearthing of a treasure trove of love and romance through the eras within books. Each with romance and fun but also with storylines to really get your teeth into. It is a list that may also remind readers that romantic fiction isn’t frivolous, it also has gripping, emotional storylines.

The interactive element is both practical and fun as you can jot down your favourites and thoughts. This would be a great treat for any reader, even as a present or for yourself.

What will you unearth and give a try from this book? It is well-worth a read.

About the Author

Eric Karl Anderson, aka the Lonesome Reader,
hails from Maine and has lived in the UK for many
years. He started a reading blog to record his
thoughts on the books he was reading and he now
reviews books for several publishers across his
socials, including his popular YouTube channel.
Asbwell as having his own novel and short stories published, he’s been on the judging panels of
numerous literary awards including The British Book Awards (2017) and The Costa Book Awards
(2020). RuPaul praised his blog on his podcast ‘What’s the Tee?’ after Eric recommended he read Damon Galgut’s novel Arctic Summer.
 
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#Review By Lou of The Echoes of Love By Jenny Ashcroft @Jenny_Ashcroft @HQstories #HistoricalFiction #WartimeFiction #WW2 #1970s #1930s #1940s #RomanticFiction

The Echoes of Love
By Jenny Ashcroft 

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Echoes of Love is a historical fiction novel that transports readers between the mid to late  1930’s to the 1940’s and then to 1970’s. It takes readers into the depths of love and war and how it reverberates years later. It’s a book I highly recommend. Find out more in the blurb and my thoughts in my review below. I also thank HQ Stories for the book and extra gifts of delicious Baklava.

Blurb

Under the Cretan sun, in the summer of 1936, two young people fall in love…

Eleni has been coming to Crete her entire life, swapping her English home for cherished sun-baked summers with her grandfather in his idyllic shoreside villa. When she arrives in 1936, she believes the long, hot weeks ahead will be no different to so many that have gone before.

But someone else is visiting the island that year too: a young German man called Otto. And so begins a summer of innocence lost, and love discovered; one that is finite, but not the end.

When, in 1941, the island falls to a Nazi invasion, Eleni and Otto meet there once more. But this time Eleni has returned to fight for her home, and Otto to occupy it. They are enemies, and their love is not only treacherous, but also dangerous. But will it destroy them, or prove strong enough to overcome the ravages of war?

An epic tale of secrets, love, loyalty, family and how far you’d go to keep those you love safe, The Echoes of Love is an exquisite and deeply moving love letter to Crete – one that will move every reader to tears.

Review

Beginning with a transcript in 1974 about Eleni Adams at Broadcasting House. It is an interesting way to start and leads back to the events in 1936, Crete, with the transcript intercepting the main story, giving extra insights. A dangerous time and not far off the cusp of war as Hitler is on the march and the likes of Punch Magazine depicting the road to war in satirical cartoons and trips through Italy with Mussolini in charge have to be made. The book is set between Portsmouth in the UK and Crete, a Greek island. There’s almost an innocence of how this time must have been, against the ensuing darkness that looms, with Hitler being more in the news reels and then an innocent kitten being around and the emotion surrounding that. The characters do enter war times and everything changes as he begins his invasions and what he thinks of the Jews and of Jazz and Swing music.
It, however, never loses sight of it being a war-time story of love and how things change and how it is remembered. Not everything where love is concerned is simple as the book slips through the three very different time eras with great fluidity.

The book is poignant with the reverberations of love and atrocities of war and what the German Nazis had created can be felt deeply and yet it has beautiful writing that has a truth, and yet a softness and not a coarseness surrounding all the events of the day and the people affected in so many different ways.

At the end is an author’s note about how the book was, in part inspired by her own family and about Crete and more… This is a book I highly recommend you lose yourself in.

 

#Bookreview By Lou of A Scandinavian Summer By Helga Jensen @HelgaJensenF @rararesources #RomanticFiction

A Scandinavia Summer
By Helga Jensen

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Today I’m on a blog tour for A Scandinavian Summer thanks to Rachel Random Resources and the publisher – Canelo.

Blurb

It’s the right time for love, but is it the wrong place?

After the tragic, premature death of her husband Anthony, Martha has spent all her time focused on her teenage daughter Rosie in their small Welsh village.

But with Rosie leaving the nest, and Martha’s own job on the line, it feels that life is passing her by.

Inspired by her love for Scandi-noir dramas, Martha impulsively books a trip to Denmark, determined to push herself out of her comfort zone – even if the thought terrifies her…

Her trip to the tiny island of Fano becomes something much more: in the form of handsome stranger, Lars. Can Martha find love under the Scandinavian skies… but more importantly, can she find herself?

A romantic, warm and uplifting read, guaranteed to leave you smiling. Fans of Jenny Colgan and Kathryn Freeman will adore this feelgood read!

Review

Summer is turning into autumn, but here’s an opportunity to do some armchair travelling to catch some summer rays. Readers can journey between Wales and a Danish island – Fano in this feel good rom-com. As well as romance, there’s some self love as Martha starts to embrace life more on her journey of self-discovery as she grows in confidence and determination to push through what was holding her back and to journey outwith her comfort zone. Before that, she suffered from panic attacks, had been through grief of being widowed at a young age and allowed this and her work in the library to be her main stay in life as the rest of what life had to offer passed her by. It’s a beautiful read, seeing how Martha wants to do something different and push through the discomfort of her previously assuring barriers, to regain life for herself and exploration of what she can do and of what the world has to offer. There is of course the dishy Lars to provide some new romance along the way.

It’s a good read with a writing style that makes it easy for Martha to pull readers with her and join her on her romantic and self-discovery adventure.

 

#Writeup of an #authortalk with Chris Brookmyre and Jenny Colgan, #Books, #Music #Festivals #Writing and more @jennycolgan @cbrookmyre

A Write-up of a talk between Chris Brookmyre and Jenny Colgan
Event took place on 27th July 2022

The event was held by Stirling Waterstones upstairs in a pub in Stirling, Scotland called The Curly Coo (or The Curly Cow for those abroad wondering what a coo is).
Chris Brookmyre’s book is – The Cliff House and Jenny Colgan’s book is – An Island Wedding.
Both are available to purchase now!
Review Link for The Cliff House – link is also after my write-up here as are links to The Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, Bloody Scotland and website and social media links.

Jenny and Chris books

Although both authors do not have the commonality of crime fiction/mystery within their new books, they do share the theme of a party.

The talk covered their books, writing, music and more…

I have included a link to my book review of The Cliff House By Chris Brookmyre within this for those who haven’t seen the separate post of it. I am yet to read The Island Wedding by Jenny Colgan.

Me and Jenny

Me and Chris

Me and Jenny Colgan

Me and Chris Brookmyre

The atmosphere was jovial and warm. The talk was mostly humorous and they treated those who attended to a reading of extracts from their books. They talked about the last time they met to do a talk together was in 2006 in Shetland. Chris Brookmyre recalled that William McIllvanney was on the audience guestlist and how that felt.

They talked about if and when they re-read their books. 2008 was the last time Chris Brookmyre last read one of his old books as he was writing a sequel.
A rather scary aspect of the talk was when Jenny Colgan talked about a book she had written and how the USA branded the 1990s as historical fiction.
They talked about each others books and how Chris Brookmyre writes books from different characters points of view, which you will see in The Cliff House.

Weddings and Parties

What is interesting and was brought up as they talked, was the fact that in lockdown, weddings were cancelled and people postponed them (a family member of mine, included) and how everyone knew what that was like, and how now there are many books set around parties.
I, myself have seen and got some books to review that are and seems to be quite a big theme this year as Chris Brookmyre talks about how people are writing vicariously about parties after being in lockdown and mentions authors such as Lin Anderson and Claire MacIntosh.
Jenny Colgan talked excitedly about how she writes about all different weddings; she also loved doing the research for them, especially for the most extravagant weddings and just to enjoy wedding again. It was interesting hearing how her attitude has changed to wanting to go to them all and with a gift, from pre-pandemic and wondering whether she wanted to or not and the cost of a gift etc.
Chris Brookmyre interestingly talked about how he was inspired by people going to private islands. His island is fictionalised and he seems to like that he could make up his own rules. He talked about this for the many genres he writes.
Jenny Colgan also creates a bit of fiction in her places and advised people not to write about where you live, unless perhaps it is a city and alluded to how that would be different as there isn’t so much of a very tight-knit close community, whereas people may recognise themselves or think they do in somewhere small.
Chris Brookmyre talked a bit about his book and its concepts of his character Jen getting married again and can’t accept the concept of happiness as seems all too good to be true, but has a hen party anyway. He talked about friendships and how there are different levels of this, some you see a lot, but don’t actually truly know and people who you may not trust, which are concepts within the book.
The island itself, he describes is as like an upmarket Airbnb. It is a book of 7 points of view. When asked about why the characters were all women, he stated he wanted to write about women and not men and alluded that it would be a very different story if the characters were men.
He talked a bit about “And Then There We’re None by Agatha Christie” and how books, such as his are often compared to this, but talked about how they differ and one of the ways is that was a story of retribution but his book is essentially about forgiveness of themselves.
He later talked about liking mismatched crime books.

Writing and Marketing

The talk moved onwards to the interesting topic of covers, but without getting into it all too deeply and heavy. They mainly focussed on the pink covers, since both of them have pink on them and there are a few around in many genres just now. They pointed out that the “pink” etc doesn’t necessarily show much about what is lurking inside the content of a book.
They talked about marketing a little bit in-terms of genres, marketing spaces. Jenny Colgan declared she didn’t really believe in genre. For Chris Brookmyre, he said the term “Tartan Noir” was good for marketing but his book – The Cliff House is more uplifting and about friendships, so less “noir”.
They talked about timers within books. The writer has got to solve the murder at a certain stage, in a rom-com the writer has got to get their characters together before Xmas. When writing different genres, Jenny Colgan reckons she doesn’t find that too difficult, but does however find it hard to kill off characters.
She also alluded that it is a bit different for Doctor Who as this is an already created person. It was fascinating hearing about the pecking order and the way Doctor Who works for writers.
Like Jenny Colgan, and perhaps even more so, Chris Brookmyre writes in many genres and how he is Ambrose Parry when he writes historical fiction, with Marissa, his wife, who sounds like she likes rules, plotting and planning, so he revealed he does a bit more of that now, but still likes the element of surprise in the direction his characters take him in. He also talked about something exciting happening with Netflix.
Jenny Colgan on the other-hand isn’t a fan of overly researching, but does do some.
Jenny Colgan added to how she writes and had a bit of advise for new writers and says you can start at 200 words and write to that target and then get on with the rest of the day (she writes thousands and then gets on with her day, but says hundreds is also fine). They both talked about getting the first draft down, in brief, they say that this needs to be finished and then it can be fixed after that and also write about what you know.

Music 

Chris Brookmyre is a member of the Fun Lovin’ Criminals and they will be playing at The Edinburgh Fringe 2022.

Jenny Colgan can play the piano and recently learnt how to play the harp.

Thanks

I thank both authors for the photos and for signing my books, which I now treasure.

 Links