The Grand Reopening of Dandelion Cafe -Cherry Pie Island #1 by Jenny Oliver

REVIEW

An enticing tale of love, family and believing in yourself.

Annie essentially ran away from her childhood home to escape the mistakes of her past, but when she is left the Dandelion Cafe in her father’s will she has no choice other than to return.  She does, however, have the choice on whether to stay or not.

Matt ran away from his past too, only now his past doesn’t want anything to do with him.  Leaving his son, River, behind was a mistake that Matt is now trying to amend but River is not going to make it easy for him.

Throughout the book, Annie is very undecided about what she wants for her future.  She is torn between her design business and not letting go of the cafe. She has friends on one side encouraging her to give it a go and family on the other (her brother) telling her to get rid.  she also has the same choices to make as far as Matt goes…does she stay or does she go?

There are some wonderful characters in this story. Martha, Ludo and River at the cafe, Annie’s friend, Holly, her mother, Winifred, who has some very good words of wisdom when needed.  And let’s not forget her brother, Jonathan, who for being a doctor is a bit of an idiot and definitely a coward (I refer here to the tree incident!).

A lovely summertime read.  Perfect for relaxing in the garden and just letting your mind drift away to Cherry Pie Island.

Rating 4/5

Synopsis

When Annie White steps back onto Cherry Pie Island, it’s safe to say her newly inherited Dandelion Café has seen better days! And while her childhood home on the Thames-side island idyll is exactly the same retreat from the urban bustle of London she remembers, Annie’s not convinced that Owner of The Dandelion Cafe is a title she’ll be keeping for long. Not that she can bear the idea of letting her dedicated, if endearingly disorganized staff lose their jobs. Plus café life does also have the added bonus of working a stone’s throw away from millionaire Matt and his disarmingly charming smile!

One (shoestring budget) café makeover, a few delightful additions to the somewhat retro menu and a lot of cherry pie tastings later, The Dandelion Café is ready for its grand reopening! But once she’s brought the dilapidated old café back to life, Annie finds herself wishing her stay on the island was just a bit longer. She always intended to go back to the big city…but could island living finally have lured her back home for good?

(https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/24914827-the-grand-reopening-of-dandelion-cafe)

Shopping for a CEO’s Honeymoon – Shopping for a Billionaire #14 by Julia Kent

REVIEW

I think I love Andrew and Amanda a little bit more with each book I read.  Amanda is definitely Andrew’s soulmate and doesn’t take any of his overbearing, egotistical nonsense, although she has plenty of ‘ammunition’ following the gun awareness course!

Definitely an interesting way to spend your honeymoon. Although I can’t believe with that many rooms in the house they couldn’t find one without a workman in it. Lots of decisions and future plans made.  Loved Andrews declaration about his feelings when he holds Ellie.

Great to see my other favourite couple, Declan and Shannon, making an appearance along with little baby, Ellie. Shannon is a natural at motherhood. I remember those day of blowouts, I don’t care what the nappy/diaper manufacturers say, there is nothing that holds it in! Terry also makes a flying visit, I’m hopeful we will see more of him in the future and that he gets his own happy ever after.

Besides a very brief scene with Pam, there are no parents in this book.  I love Maria and James but sometimes they have a tendency to dominate.  It was really nice to just have the ‘kids’ and focus on their stories.

Looking forward to the next instalment in this brilliant series.

Synopsis

He says we never had a proper honeymoon. 

So, instead, he’s giving me… a prepper honeymoon? 

Who knew billionaire preppers were a thing? 

I guess I’m about to find out. 

(https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39868621-shopping-for-a-ceo-s-honeymoon)

Model Boyfriend by Stuart Reardon, Jane Harvey-Berrick

REVIEW

An emotional roller-coaster ride of love that spans oceans but always comes home.

I absolutely loved Nick and Anna’s story in Undefeated and I’m so glad that Stuart and Jane brought them back to us again in this book.  I was a bit uncertain, apprehensive almost, about reading Model Boyfriend because the end of the the first book left them in such a happy place that I didn’t want to have bad things happen…call me a hopeless romantic if you must, I am! But trust me when I say that I so glad that I did.

Nick has retired from rugby and finds himself a complete loose end.  Having nothing to do just doesn’t sit right with him, but what can he do? When he is asked to pose for a sports calendar for charity he reluctantly agrees and finds that he actually quite enjoys it. But the road to modelling is paved with very uneven bricks and even Nick ‘The Rocket’ Renshaw stumbles along the way.

Anna is amazing. She is supportive, loving and understanding, sometimes a little too much.  Half the time I didn’t know if I wanted to hug them both or bang their heads together!

As well as being a love story it also touches on a couple of hard hitting issues – Drug addiction in athletes and the acceptance of gay sportsman in rugby.  As a romance novel reader and not much of a sports person I have never really given much thought to these issues, but following the problems with Nick and Grégoire I now have an awareness of these issues and how they can effect people.  I loved the way Grég dealt with his issue on the bus.

Brendan, oh Brendan! What can I say about this highly charismatic character except I think I will miss him the most.  He is such a bright, shining star, the voice of reason, and the shoulder to cry on.  I am so immensely happy with the way things turned out for him.

Although Model Boyfriend can be read as a standalone it would be much better to read Undefeated first, and if you haven’t read it yet…why not? A wonderful sports romance that will have your heart racing and the tears flowing (Chapter 36, I’m saying no more!)

(Please read my review for Undefeated by Stuart Reardon and Jane Harvey-Berrick)

And as an added bonus there are modelling shots of Stuart Reardon interspersed throughout the book…sigh!

Rating 5/5

Synopsis

“What’s it like dating one of the most beautiful men in the world? A man whose face is on every magazine and ad campaign?

Not as much fun as it sounds, as Anna Scott is about to find out.

Retired from rugby at the age of 33, injured and bored, Nick is given the chance to enter the high stakes world of fashion photography as a model.

But behind the glittering façade lies an ugly reality: drugs, alcohol, all the deadly sins, and people willing to sleep their way to the top.

It’s a tough life and tougher on relationships.

Nick needs to learn to navigate the treacherous path quickly or risk losing it all—including the woman who has become his reason for living.

In this glamorous world, there is no room for error. Being a MODEL BOYFRIEND has never been harder.

Can nice guy Nick find his way through, or will he be tempted to risk it all? Because the one thing he despises is failure.

He’s a lot more than a pretty face.”

(https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40550491-model-boyfriend)

All the Hidden Truths – Three Rivers by Claire Askew

REVIEW

A compelling fictional story that follows the lives of three different women in the wake of a school shooting.

Moira Summers, the mother of Ryan Summers, who on May 14th walked into his college and shot 13 girls before turning the gun on himself.

Ishbel Hodgekiss, the mother of Abigail Hodgekiss, the first girl to be shot by Ryan Summers.

DI Helen Birch, lead investigator in the Three Rivers College Shooting.

The story is told from the point of view of all three women, from the day before to several weeks after, leading the reader through the thoughts, sleepless nights, family upset and the difficulties that emerge from such a sudden and violent incident.

I was uncertain, to start with, as to whether this book would hold my interest.  The subject matter is quite upsetting but the behind-the-scenes insight into the police enquiry, the bereaved families and the unknown answers really made me stop and think about how I would cope in this situation, whether it was as a victim’s relative, the mother of the murderer, or as a support worker to the family.  I’ll admit I tried not to dwell on any of these thoughts for too long and could actually relate, in part, to the two mothers.  As a mother of two boys (11 & 13) I know that they can plug into whatever screen is currently at hand and not talk to you for hours, sometimes only appearing when their tummies tell them to.  It is difficult to find the right balance between overbearing, nosy and intrusive, and giving them space, privacy and, most importantly, trust.

The end of the book really got to me.  Lots of secrets are revealed from all three women during the course of the story but for me it was the last chapter.  I’m not sure it would have made any difference.  I think that if someone has worked that hard and been that focused on doing what Ryan did, then nothing is going to stop them.

I would just like to say that I don’t know why Ishbel stayed with that complete idiot (polite word!) and to do what he did at the vigil, I think I would have ripped his eyes out!

Rating 4/5

Synopsis

This is a fact: Ryan Summers walked into Three Rivers College and killed thirteen women, then himself.

But no one can say why.

The question is one that cries out to be answered – by Ryan’s mother, Moira; by Ishbel, the mother of Abigail, the first victim; and by DI Helen Birch, put in charge of the case on her first day at her new job. But as the tabloids and the media swarm, as the families’ secrets come out, as the world searches for someone to blame… the truth seems to vanish.

(https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39683130-all-the-hidden-truths)

A Merciful Silence – Mercy Kilpatrick #4 by Kendra Elliot

REVIEW

Mercy Kilpatrick is back on the hunt, this time for a serial killer who is murdering whole families.

When the skeletal remains of a family are found, Mercy finds links to previous murders from years ago, but the man arrested at the time is still in prison.  Have they got a copycat killer or could the original murderer still be free.

Mercy’s heart is put to the test as well as her head when Truman, her boyfriend and Police Chief of Eagle’s Nest, goes missing.  Her feelings for Truman have never been so strong and the realisation that she really, truly loves him forces her to never give up.

Another fantastic story by Kendra Elliot.  I am absolutely loving this series. It is wonderful to have more cameo appearances from characters of previous books.  I think I might have to reread the ‘Bone Secrets’ and ‘Callahan and McLane’ series again.

Full of action, adventure, fear and worry,  This book will have you turning page after page.

Listened to via Audible. Narrated by Teri Schnaubelt.

Synopsis

For Mercy Kilpatrick, returning to rural Oregon has meant coming to terms with her roots. Raised as a prepper, Mercy is now relying on her survivalist instincts to defend her town from the people the law can’t reach. But this time, an investigation calling up a dark past for her and police chief Truman Daly may be hitting too close to home.

A rainstorm has uncovered the remains of five people—a reprise of the distinctive slaughter of two families twenty years ago. Except the convicted killer is in prison. Is this the case of a sick copycat, or is the wrong man behind bars? One person might have the answer. The lone survivor of the decades-old crimes has returned to town still claiming that she can’t remember a thing about the night she was left for dead. As the search for the truth becomes more dangerous, Mercy fears that the traumatized woman may not have buried her memories at all. She might be keeping them a secret. And there’s a price to be paid for revealing them.

(https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36605687-a-merciful-silence)

The Plus One by Sophia Money-Coutts

REVIEW

Humorous and heartwarming.  This book is the tale of a thirty+ year old singleton who isn’t ‘looking’ but really would like to have that special someone.

The problem that faces Polly Spencer is finding the ‘right’ someone.

With her best friend’s wedding looming, Polly doesn’t want to attend alone, especially when everyone around her seems to have their ‘plus one’. When an interview leads to a possible relationship she grabs it with both hands despite the warnings and her own gut instinct.  Could legendary playboy Jasper Milton be that special someone?

Polly faces several challenges including some weird and wonderful interviews as part of her job at “Posh!” magazine, a troubled time with her mum,  and a weekend hen party in Norfolk, throw in the antics of her “boyfriend” and you’ve got an emotional mix that will have you laughing one minute and shouting at her not to be so stupid the next!

A little predictable but all in all a really nice read.

Synopsis

The Plus One [n] informal a person who accompanies an invited person to a wedding or a reminder of being single, alone and absolutely plus none

Polly’s not looking for ‘the one’, just the plus one…
Polly Spencer is fine. She’s single, turning thirty and only managed to have sex twice last year (both times with a Swedish banker called Fred), but seriously, she’s fine. Even if she’s still stuck at Posh! magazine writing about royal babies and the chances of finding a plus one to her best friend’s summer wedding are looking worryingly slim.

But it’s a New Year, a new leaf and all that. Polly’s determined that over the next 365 days she’ll remember to shave her legs, drink less wine and generally get her s**t together. Her latest piece is on the infamous Jasper, Marquess of Milton, undoubtedly neither a plus one nor ‘the one’. She’s heard the stories, there’s no way she’ll succumb to his charms…

(https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/38733836-the-plus-one)

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

REVIEW

One of the many classics, and the first book written by Jane Austen, has deep and meaningful undertones. The title itself tells so much about the story to follow.

Elinor is the eldest of three sisters and by far the most sensible. She keeps her emotions private and always presents herself in the correct manner. She is in direct contrast to her younger sister, Marianne, who believes that emotions should be shown and not hidden away. Both girls feel the bitter taste of heartbreak but deal with it in completely different ways, Elinor hides her pain behind a closed-off mask, whereas Marianne is open and direct about her feelings.

The story is beautifully written and although the language used may seem old (it is over a hundred years old!) it is easy to follow and adds to the character of the story. The way that Austen describes the countryside, the cottage, the park etc. had me drawn into the world of the Dashwood’s and living in that time with horses, carriages, 2/3 day journeys to ‘town’ (London) and days spent reading or drawing.

The male characters in the book are as diverse as the female. On the one hand is Edward Ferrars, quiet and unassuming, and on the other is John Willoughby, ostentatious and forthright. My feelings are definitely mixed for Willoughby. He is believed to be a man of little integrity and the cause of much heartache to poor Marianne, and to some extent he is, but towards the end of the story, during a heart-to-heart with Elinor, my feelings for him did change. I am still far happier with the outcome for both the girls and believe that they would have lead much happier and enjoyable lives with the men they finally found love with.

Lovely story of love and heartbreak.

Synopsis

Marianne Dashwood wears her heart on her sleeve, and when she falls in love with the dashing but unsuitable John Willoughby she ignores her sister Elinor’s warning that her impulsive behaviour leaves her open to gossip and innuendo. Meanwhile Elinor, always sensitive to social convention, is struggling to conceal her own romantic disappointment, even from those closest to her. Through their parallel experience of love—and its threatened loss—the sisters learn that sense must mix with sensibility if they are to find personal happiness in a society where status and money govern the rules of love.

(https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/14935.Sense_and_Sensibility)