Book Review: An Affair by the Sea (The Siren’s Retreat Quartet #2) by Erica Ridley

About the Book:

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What happens when a wallflower’s extremely make-believe fake suitor appears in the flesh just in time to ruin all her spinsterly plans?

Orphaned pianist Allegra Brown is a poor relation with nothing much to recommend her, save a minuscule dowry and a very big imagination. She has spent the past several years as governess to her younger cousins, who are now ready for their come out—and want Allegra to marry, too. Specifically, they eagerly await the return of Allegra’s dashing, handsome, swashbuckling, conveniently absent and secretly fictional fiancé, the dread pirate Captain L’Amour.

The only place Mr. John Sharp strikes fear is in the courtroom, where his neat, ordered mind is renowned for winning every case he presents. John loves predictability and longs to be a chef. Unfortunately, every time he puts on an apron, the entire kitchen catches fire. Much like passion burning between him and a certain wildly unpredictable spinster, who seems to have confused him for a dashing, exciting pirate. By fulfilling her fantasies, can his dreams come true…together?

My Thoughts:

I’ve read a few books by Erica Ridley before and so it was natural to request this upcoming book of hers from NetGalley. The story follows Allegra Brown and her younger cousins on an unexpected journey towards love and a fulfilling life. Having lived with her cousins and uncle since she was quite young, Allegra was used to being the one in the shadows, taking care of her cousins but not being noticed. This is until they almost run over Mr. John Sharp, handsome mad with a striking personality who seems to fit the mold of the made up Captain L’Amour.

It was indeed love at first sight for both our protagonists but I enjoyed how the story built up to it and how they find their space with each other. The characters are fun to read about and the setting is picturesque and beautiful to imagine. This is a quick read and is quite entertaining with romance, music, tasty food and a whole lot of fun. The bond that Allegra shares with her cousins is heart-warming and I did enjoy the way they worked to push Allegra and John together.

Overall this is a pleasant read that I would definitely recommend to anyone looking for a good romantic read!

Book Review: Castle of Refuge by Melanie Dickerson

About the Book:

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To live an unforgettable life, she would defy all expectations—including her own.

Ever since she was a child, Audrey wanted her life to be extraordinary. But as the daughter of a viscount born in late fourteenth-century England, the only thing expected of her was to marry—until an act of malice by her sister, Maris, four years ago damaged her face and her prospects. Though Maris was sent away, twenty-year-old Audrey is still suffering the scars of her sister’s cruelty. When her father announces his plans to marry off his damaged daughter and bring Maris home, Audrey decides to flee in search of her true destiny.

However, life outside her home is dangerous, and she soon finds herself attacked, sick, and in desperate need of help. She is taken in at Dericott Castle to be nursed back to health. While there, she decides to keep her identity a secret and work as a servant in the castle. But she doesn’t count on falling in love with the young and handsome Lord Dericott, who lost his arm several months earlier and bears scars of his own.

Meanwhile, Edwin—Lord Dericott—is curious about the new, well-educated servant’s identity. All he knows is that he’s quickly becoming smitten with her. When the man Audrey’s father wanted her to marry comes looking for her, she and Edwin must make life-changing decisions about what to believe and whether or not love is truly worth trusting.

In this Ugly Duckling retelling, New York Times bestselling author Melanie Dickerson brilliantly crafts a high stakes, encouraging tale about the power of love.

My Thoughts:

I randomly picked up this book from NetGalley and decided to give it a try based on the synopsis. I was not at all disappointed.

The story follows Audrey as she navigates her life and the expectations of her father. She is also dealing with a jealous older sister from whom all she ever wanted was acceptance. When she is finally faced with a situation she does not want to be in (marriage to an older man on account of the scars that mar her face and make her “undesirable” or “unworthy of good marriage prospects”), she runs away from her home and everyone she loves.

Audrey ends up at Dericott Castle where she tries to hide her identity for as long as possible, immersing herself in household tasks along with the other servants. As time passes, we see a romance in the very early stages between Audrey and Lord Dericott.

I enjoyed reading about Audrey’s ideas and drive towards education, her dream of providing education to all the girls in the village and giving them a chance to choose their paths. I also like how the author has brought out the contrast between the main characters which makes it all the more enjoyable as the romance grows.

Some parts of the story felt a little predictable to me, but this did not take away from the entire plot. I liked the book and the various characters we are introduced to. Each one had something to contribute with a lot of love, compassion and support to go around despite the negative emotions (mainly from the sister’s side).

Overall this is a fun and exciting adventure on the journey to love. I do recommend this book to those who enjoy a good regency romance or a historical romance with men of title and women of great strength of character.

Book Review: A Letter From Pearl Harbor by Anna Stuart

About the Book:

58758179Ninety-eight-year-old Ginny McAllister’s last wish is for her granddaughter to complete a treasure hunt containing clues to her past. Clues that reveal her life as one of the first female pilots at Pearl Harbor, and a devastating World War Two secret.

1941, Pearl Harbor: On the morning of December 7th, Ginny is flying her little yellow plane above the sparkling seas when she spots an unknown aircraft closing in on her. She recognises the red symbol of the Japanese fighter planes almost too late. Somehow, she manages to land unscathed but the choices she is forced to make in the terrible hours that follow have tragic consequences…

2019, Pearl Harbor: Heartbroken Robyn Harris is reeling from the death of the strong, determined grandmother who raised her. Her only comfort is a letter written in Ginny’s distinctive hand which details a treasure hunt, just like the ones she used to set for her as a little girl. Except this time, the clues are scattered across the beautiful island of Hawaii. Despite her grief, Robyn finds herself intrigued as she follows the trail of letters, revealing the truth about Ginny’s service during the Second World War.

But Robyn’s whole world is turned upside down when she’s faced with a shocking secret which has the power to change the course of her own life…

Inspired by true events, this is a heartbreaking and unforgettable WW2 novel about love, loss and bravery. Perfect for fans of The Alice Network, The Nightingale and Kathryn Hughes.

My Thoughts:

A Letter From Pearl Harbor is a story of love, loss, learning and second chances no matter the situation. The story is narrated to us in two timelines, one in the current day from Robyn’s point of view and the other through letters and the narration in her grandmother’s point of view set in 1941. Robyn and her sister spend one last night with their grandmother who is on her deathbed. At this point, she tells them that she had a terrible secret and has set up a treasure hunt with clues scattered across Hawaii to tell them her story.

The sisters, Robyn and Ashleigh have their own share of demons to deal with. Ashleigh got into an accident which led to her being confined to a wheelchair and stuck without the use of her legs. Robyn moves to Hawaii (perhaps following in her grandmother’s footsteps) and works there, giving up a sports scholarship that she was not ready to devote time to. The sisters have unresolved feelings of resentment towards one another which are tackled through the story.

As we follow the girls on their hunt for clues, we get to know their grandmother better. Her story is set in the time of WWII when the was had still not come to America, but there was a hint. Then one day, Pearl Harbor is bombed by the Japanese and everything changes. In the midst of this bombing, a lot changes for Ginny and thus her priorities change. Determined and full of purpose, she goes to England in the hope that female pilots will be allowed to be a part of the war efforts.

This is a heartbreaking story that brings to us the realities of war, the frustrations, but more importantly how loss affects the people who still live. Additionally, as we discover Ginny’s secrets, we find out just how decisions can affect not just your life but that of the others around you and how the goodness of people can go beyond holding grudges and prove to be healing. Through her story, Robyn and her sister also learn to accept who they are, accept each other and form better bonds with each other and those around them.

Though the war is a part of the plot, the main focus is on the women who train to be pilots and participate in the war efforts. Their determinations, achievements and friendships form the backbone of this story. A truly well-written story, this book is worth reading especially for the messages it contains.

Book Review: Before We Grow Old by Clare Swatman

About the Book:

Some people are just made for each other…When seven-year-old Fran first met Will they knew instantly that they were made for each other. For eleven years they were inseparable, but then, at the age of eighteen, Will just upped and disappeared.

Twenty-five years later Will is back.
Is fate trying to give them a second chance?

Still nursing the heart break from all those years ago, Fran is reluctant to give Will the time of day. The price Will must pay is to tell the truth – the truth about why he left, the truth about why he’s back…

And Fran has her own secrets to hide. The time has come to decide what Fran and Will really want from life – before it’s too late.

My Thoughts:

Before We Grow Old is an inspiring story of two people who find each other twenty five years later and realize that they still feel the same way about each other that they did growing up. Fran and Will were very close from the age of seven, first as friends which then grew into something more. When Will went away leaving just a letter behind, Fran was distraught and in a situation that she never expected to be in. Will on the other hand was dealing with the loss of his mother and a grieving father.

The story follows the two of them as they discover their friendship and love twenty five years later. There is a lot that was left unsaid, secrets that were hidden and feelings to rediscover and understand. This is indeed a story of second chances, learning to forgive, understanding a person’s decision and moving on in ways that make everyone all the more happier. This is also a story of seizing the moment, learning to live life to the fullest and dealing with loss.

I truly enjoyed reading about Fran and Will, their families, and friends. The story is beautifully written and fun in places where everyone comes together to try and complete a bucket list that Fran and Will prepared when they were seventeen. The author handles the concept of death rather delicately and I quite liked the way she handled the whole plot. Though sad in the end, there is something so fulfilling and positive in the way Will handles life and Fran steps up to deal with everything. In the end, the bonds of family tie everyone together and we can each learn something from this story.

I truly enjoyed reading this book and I laughed and cried along with the characters. This is definitely worth reading and I definitely recommend this book to all!

Book Review: The Second Life of Mirielle West by Amanda Skenandore

About the Book:

57034524The glamorous world of a silent film star’s wife abruptly crumbles when she’s forcibly quarantined at the Carville Lepers Home in this page-turning story of courage, resilience, and reinvention set in 1920s Louisiana and Los Angeles. Based on little-known history, this timely book will strike a chord with readers of Fiona Davis, Tracey Lange, and Marie Benedict.

Based on the true story of America’s only leper colony, The Second Life of Mirielle West brings vividly to life the Louisiana institution known as Carville, where thousands of people were stripped of their civil rights, branded as lepers, and forcibly quarantined throughout the entire 20th century.

For Mirielle West, a 1920’s socialite married to a silent film star, the isolation and powerlessness of the Louisiana Leper Home is an unimaginable fall from her intoxicatingly chic life of bootlegged champagne and the star-studded parties of Hollywood’s Golden Age. When a doctor notices a pale patch of skin on her hand, she’s immediately branded a leper and carted hundreds of miles from home to Carville, taking a new name to spare her family and famous husband the shame that accompanies the disease.

At first she hopes her exile will be brief, but those sent to Carville are more prisoners than patients and their disease has no cure. Instead she must find community and purpose within its walls, struggling to redefine her self-worth while fighting an unchosen fate.

As a registered nurse, Amanda Skenandore’s medical background adds layers of detail and authenticity to the experiences of patients and medical professionals at Carville – the isolation, stigma, experimental treatments, and disparate community. A tale of repulsion, resilience, and the Roaring ‘20s, The Second Life of Mirielle West is also the story of a health crisis in America’s past, made all the more poignant by the author’s experiences during another, all-too-recent crisis.

My Thoughts:

The Second Life of Mirielle West is a historical fiction set in the time of the 1920s. Mirielle West is a socialite who only knows the world of comfort, glamor and parties. When a chance diagnosis by her doctor forces her to go away, everything as she knows it changes. The author delicately weaves a story around the Louisiana Leper Home known as Carville which housed so many people who were forcibly quarantined there. 

Mirielle doesn’t know what to expect and is under the impression that she can go home as soon as the misunderstanding is cleared. With each test and a confirmed diagnosis, she has to reconcile herself to her new surroundings and find a place among the people there. This is truly a book of second chances and new beginnings as we follow Mirielle who grows from a spoiled high and mighty socialite to a caring woman who takes up new responsibilities and tries to bring joy to those around her. She is separated from her family, her children and is still dealing with the grief of losing one child. All this has also led to distance with her husband and adds to her emotional turmoil.

Being separated from one’s family is not easy and being isolated is even worse when your family does not want to see you. This was the fate of so many of the people who lived here due to the disease which had no cure. The author has painted a vivid picture bringing to us a well woven story based on so many true accounts. It is heart-breaking to read about the circumstances of the people but the best part is the bonds that are formed. The love, compassion and kinship that arises from shared circumstances leads to found family and a new kind of acceptance in life.

Mirielle and all the other characters in the book are brilliant and worth knowing. This is a story with characters that will stay with you even after finishing the book. The experiences and life of the people, the difficulties they faced and how they were treated is eye opening. Though difficult to read about at times and quite emotional, it is worth the read!

Book Review: The Wedding Setup by Sonali Dev

About the Book:

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From USA Today bestselling author Sonali Dev comes a heartfelt short story about one woman’s journey of self-discovery and what it means to be happy.

Ayesha Shetty lost her brother seven years ago, the same time she lost everything else important to her: her dreams, her fierce independence, and the man she loved. Not wanting to see her mother hurt anymore, she put her wild self away and became the dutiful daughter her mother needed and took on her brother’s role in the family business.

Now her best friend’s big, fat Indian wedding is a chance to get away from her endless duties at the restaurant and maybe even have some fun (if she remembers how). But a setup arranged by her mother, with a doctor no less, is the last thing she needs. The fact that he checks all her mother’s boxes just makes everything better…and worse.

Then Emmitt Hughes shows up. Her brother’s best friend. The love she once chose over family duties and her responsibilities. The one she asked to leave, and who did. The one who knows the real Ayesha. Torn between a love from the past that could cost her the only person she has left and her sense of obligation to her mother, will Ayesha find the strength to stop thinking about what everyone else wants and finally put herself first? Or is the old Ayesha truly gone for good?

My Thoughts:

The Wedding Setup is a short story that reads in the style of a Bollywood movie. It is a quick and interesting read considering the theme that is handled by the author. Ayesha suppresses her dreams and stays to help her mother at their family restaurant after her brother dies. She calms down and becomes the opposite of who she used to be. In an attempt to keep her mother happy, she starts to accept and agree with her without question.

The author handles the storyline very well and in this short story brings out a ton of emotions. The mother-daughter relationship, how it changed, Ayesha’s friendships, past love and the current arranged marriage setup. With the prospect of an arranged match and her ex turning up at her best friend’s wedding, Ayesha is torn between choosing what she wants and what would make her mother happy.

I enjoyed reading this book and I admire how the author has handled both the plot and her characters. Overall this is definitely a book that I would recommend for those who love second chance romances and an overload of different emotions!

Book Review: Murder at the Wedding (Miss Underhay #7) by Helena Dixon

About the Book:

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’Till death do us part may come sooner than they thought…

1934. Kitty Underhay steps out of the battered Rolls Royce and onto the gravelled driveway of Thurscomb Castle in deepest Yorkshire. She’s honoured to be a bridesmaid at her cousin Lucy’s wedding to the reluctant Lord Rupert Woodcomb, but as family and friends gather for welcome drinks, Kitty dodges intrusive questions about her own marital status by taking a stroll about the castle grounds. As she passes through the manicured gardens, a fatal shot rings out…

The valet, Evans, is dead. And Kitty can’t help but notice how rattled the man standing next to him seems. Could Rupert’s best man, The Right Honourable Alexander ‘Sandy’ Galsworthy, believe the speeding bullet was meant for him?

When she discovers that Sandy has been receiving blackmail notes, Kitty suspects that one of the assembled guests has plans to make good on their threats. The local constabulary won’t act on Kitty’s hunch, so, busy with her bridesmaid’s duties, she asks her beau, ex-army captain Matthew Bryant, to help.

The ceremony passes without a hitch. But when an anxious Sandy slips away during the dancing, Matt follows, only to make a hideous discovery: Sandy is dead, flattened on the terrace by some falling masonry.

Now the duo are sure that there is a murderer within the castle walls. But can they untangle Sandy’s final hours and catch this killer before they strike again, or will the wedding bells be replaced by a death knell for Kitty herself…?

A completely charming and unputdownable cozy historical Golden Age murder mystery! Perfect for fans of Agatha Christie, T.E. Kinsey and Lee Strauss.

My Thoughts:

Murder at the Wedding is a murder mystery that is well written and wonderful to read. This is the first book by the author and in the series that I read, but it was easy to catch on to the characters and their roles. I enjoyed reading about Kitty, her ideas and her relationship with her cousin Lucy. Having arrived at Thurscomb Castle to attend her cousin’s wedding, Kitty doesn’t expect to once again be involved in solving a murder or two. It seems as though something always happens around her.

I enjoyed reading about the various characters involved in the story. It is a simple enough plot that is well executed by the author and which gives us enough of an insight into the setting and the characters. I enjoyed the subtle investigations and the strength of Kitty’s character. I also enjoyed reading about Matt and how he fits into the story. It is indeed a race against time to find out who the murderer is before something else happens.

Overall this is a murder mystery that will delight fans of mysteries and those who want a quick but unputdownable read! I am definitely looking forward to picking up more books that involve Kitty Underhay!

Book Review: Greece Actually by Sue Roberts

About the Book:

Small, shy, safe. That’s how Becky lives ever since her last romantic calamity landed her in hospital. Her comfort zone is as confining as her tiny bank balance, and fiercely guarded by her totally over-the-top mum. But the news that her ex is back sniffing round is the final straw. In a very un-Becky move, she packs her bags for the Greek island of Skiathos. Maybe the setting of her favourite ABBA movie will be just the break from reality Becky needs…

Stepping aboard the Mamma Mia! boat tour, Becky leaves her fear in the port as she sings… out loud… in public, and cries Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! to everything the Greek life has to offer. She befriends locals young, old, and absolutely perfect (hello, sizzling hot restaurant-owner Kyros!), dines on freshly baked bread drizzled in golden olive oil on a starlit date, and walks barefoot along silky sandy beaches.

When Kyros asks her to stay longer, Becky is stunned. Could she really create a new life for herself here, and trust her heart with this smooth-talking charmer? But just as she’s thinking about putting down roots, her troublesome ex makes a dramatic return, begging for her back. Will she go back to playing it safe, or will she take a chance on Greece and embrace her true dancing queen?

My Thoughts:

Greece Actually is a light hearted summer or beach read that follows Becky as she goes to Greece with her two best friends. Having just come out of an abusive relationship and living a relatively low-key life, she jumps at the chance to house-sit for her uncle while he goes sailing. The story takes us on a journey around the Greek island of Skiathos and the surrounding places. We discover places to visit and some of the local food while also meeting people who live there.

The book blurb teases a Mamma Mia themed story or a love for the movie or even a love for ABBA songs. However, I did not find this translated into the story as Becky embraces the holiday with her friends. There is not a lot of backstory provided into the characters and thus they felt quite one-dimensional. Though I enjoyed reading about the bond between the friends, I felt that not enough attention was given to them and their lives.

This is a romance set in Greece and even the romance part was a little bit of a let down. We also do not see much of ‘the ex’ until almost the very end and it is not as dramatic as it was portrayed. I was not as invested in the characters as I had hoped to be while reading the book blurb. The highlight of the book is the setting and the beauty of the Greek islands. Overall this book can be read once, but I am sure that it would still be enjoyed by many.

Book Review: The Perfect Daughter by Alex Stone

About the Book:

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The perfect daughter…

Jess Harper has spent her whole life trying to make her mum, Abigail happy and proud. And everything Jess does, from the clothes she wears, the job she has, the men she dates, are all approved by Abigail first.

The perfect boyfriend…

So when Jess announces that she has a new man in her life – plumber Adam – Abigail is less than impressed. ‘A plumber? Really, Jessica….’ Adam encourages Jess to break free from her mum’s manipulation, can’t she see what’s happening?

The perfect mother….

But Abigail is only doing these things to keep Jess safe, to protect her from getting hurt again…isn’t she?

Or the perfect liar?

Jess, caught in the middle, doesn’t know who to believe or trust. And then Adam vanishes without trace.

Now Jess is the police’s prime suspect and they want to know if Jess really is as perfect as she seems….

My Thoughts:

The Perfect Daughter is a gripping thriller that follows the relationship between Jess and her mother. Jess tries to live up to her mother’s expectations and is always in touch with her or around her. When she starts a relationship with Adam, a plumber, she also has to deal with her mother’s disregard for him. As she tries to maintain and nurture the new relationship and keep her mother happy, she finds herself sandwiched in between, trying to reconcile who she is and who she wants to be.

I found Jess’s character to be quite interesting. The author has done a good job in trying to portray her thoughts and feelings. The first half of the story goes back and forth between the past and present day where Adam is missing and presumed dead. As the police investigate, we follow Jess as she deals with the on-going police investigation and tries to come to terms with everything. In parallel, we also get to know how she met Adam, the nature of their relationship and the role her mother has always played in her life under the pretext of protecting her.

I found the first half of the story to be a little repetitive in the thoughts and feelings that were portrayed. However, as you progress to the second part of the story, the plot intensifies and takes a huge turn. The author has done a wonderful job with the story here, bringing to us many twists and key characters who change the course of the story. Though the story focuses mainly on Jess, her mother and Adam, there are some characters who feature in the story to shape it’s course. I appreciate how the author brought them in and handled their roles in the story very well.

What intrigued me was Jess’s mother’s nature and her thought process. I found her actions and thoughts to be interesting and I think the author handled the mother-daughter dynamics very well. As you read, the questions of what it means to be perfect and what can a person believe are raised in the minds of the reader. When secrets are revealed and lies are caught, the plot takes a big turn. This is indeed a roller-coaster of a read taking us through some pretty twisted minds and toxic relationships, but coming together very neatly in the end with a well thought out conclusion.

This book is definitely worth the read for all fans of a good thriller or mystery with a psychological angle filled with a few unexpected twists!

Book Review: Granted by Kendra Thomas

About the Book:

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Sabeara Aigoviel, princess of Aveladon, wants nothing more than for her heart to glow. The Stone-Hearted power that is received at the age of eighteen is her ultimate wish. With a grim curse looming over the realm and a neighboring kingdoms conspiring plans, contentions arise. Moments of danger summon evil forces, sending Sabeara into a whirlwind of adventure, captivity, and even love.
Rescued by a handsome stranger in a brown cloak, they navigate the kingdoms to bring her safely home. When her rescuer arrives betrothed to her beloved older sister weeks later, it is all she can do to erase their memories. Will Sabeara be able to defeat the curse on the Stone-Hearted race? And will she be able to forget the memories of her epic ventures with her cloaked rescuer?

Book Review:

Granted is Book 1 in a refreshing new tale that follows Sabeara, princess of Aveladon as she navigates her life in the Kingdom and outside it. A rebel at heart and wanting nothing more than to be Stone-Hearted, Sabeara has a restless need to escape and do more than what she does inside the Castle. She wants to restore peace to the Kingdom. Her father, the King is barely there, dealing with the grief of her mother’s death and a lot of the decisions to take fall on her older sister Jasper.

I love how the sisters have a very strong bond and are supportive of each other. In this first book, we follow Sabeara’s journey as she gets kidnapped by Obscurum soldiers and is then rescued by a very handsome stranger, Mid. As they navigate their way back to Aveladon, we follow along on an adventure filled with obstacles, new friends, new enemies and a budding romance, the reader is in for a treat! Little do they know that there would be further obstacles to their romance and secrets that reveal who they are which changes a lot of things the readers initially thought they knew.

I liked the concept of the Stone-Hearted, having different kinds of powers, reading about a supposed curse and how to end it. The author has brought to us a whole new fantasy world that is well thought out. The story is rich in descriptions and character building with likeable characters who add a lot of new dimensions to the plot.

I loved this book and am definitely looking forward to reading more of this series! This is definitely worth the read!