The Will by Rebecca Reid

EXCERPT: Roxborough House is an enormous house. Too big, really. Every person who has lived there in the last two hundred years has claimed that they will be the last, that no one could possibly want to be saddled with this place. Fifteen bedrooms. Servants’ quarters. A library, two kitchens, a small sitting room, a large sitting room, a drawing room, a dining room – the list goes on. Running Roxborough is no joke. It’s a full-time job. A burden. A millstone. Inheriting it means tying one’s entire life to the place.

And yet, they all want it.

ABOUT ‘THE WILL’: The Mordaunts aren’t like most families . . .

For one, their family home is Roxborough Hall – a magnificent, centuries-old mansion in the Norfolk countryside. For another, the house isn’t passed down from parent to child – but rather to the family member deemed most worthy.

Cecily Mordaunt is dead. On the evening of her funeral, her family will gather for dinner and each will be given a letter, revealing who is the next custodian of Roxborough Hall.

The house is a burden, a millstone, a full-time job . . . but they all want it. And some are willing do anything to get it.

One family. Eight letters. Who will get what they deserve?

MY THOUGHTS: I found The Will to be compelling reading. I became totally immersed in the relationships and machinations of the Mordaunt family and read this book in less than twenty four hours.

This is my first book by author Rebecca Reid, but it certainly won’t be the last. Next on my to do list after writing this review is to track down copies of her other books.

There characters in this book are brilliantly depicted from the sweet and gentle Violet who, as it turns out, has hidden depths, to the overachieving Briony who envisages her husband’s family home as an exclusive girl’s school with herself at the helm.

The story of this family told over several timelines, non-linear, but beautifully executed. Not once did I feel confused. The timelines range from the recently deceased matriarch Cecily’s childhood through to the present time encompassing her funeral and the entailment of the family homestead.

Grant is the favoured younger son, an aging playboy with a taste for much younger women. Grant’s adopted son Jonty is a vet and the only family member who lives locally. David is Cecily’s elder son, weighed down by his successful second wife’s expectations, a desire to do right by his two daughters from his first marriage, and perplexed by a son he doesn’t understand, the result of his second marriage. Willa, a lawyer who has an eating disorder her family prefers to ignore, and Lizzie, a free spirit, are David’s two daughters and Cecily’s adored granddaughters. Cecily’s own daughter, Elspeth, has been estranged from her mother for many years. And finally there is Violet, Cecily’s constant companion and friend since Cecily turned twenty-one. One of these people will inherit Roxborough Hall. But who? And why?

The narrative of this tale is full of amazing revelations – secrets, so many secrets! There are secret liaisons, relationships, desires and dreams.

I was enormously entertained throughout this fun read.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

#TheWill #NetGalley

I: @rebeccacnreid @randomhouseuk @transworld @penguinuk

T: @RebeccaCNReid @RandomHouseUK @Transworld @PenguinUK

#contemporaryfiction #familysaga #fivestarread #friendship #historicalfiction #mystery

THE AUTHOR: Rebecca Reid is a journalist based in London. She is a columnist for the Telegraph women’s section and for Metro. She writes regularly for Marie Claire, The Guardian, Telegraph online, the Saturday Telegraph, The Independent, Grazia, Stylist, and the iPaper, and she appears regularly on Good Morning Britain, where she argues with everyone from Piers Morgan to Jameela Jamil about gender politics, social class, and sex and relationships.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Random House UK, Transworld, Penguin via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Will by Rebecca Reid for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review is also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

A Body at Lavender Cottage by Dee MacDonald

EXCERPT: She wondered why Barney was barking so manically at the back of the garage. Laying down her basket, Kate went to investigate, expecting to find a dead squirrel, rabbit or even a fox.

Instead, the first things she saw were two upturned, dirty trainer-clad feet, just visible around the edge of the garage. Her blood ran cold. Why would anyone be lying there unless they’d been very drunk and forgotten how to get home from the pub down the lane?

ABOUT ‘A BODY AT LAVENDER COTTAGE’: Kate Palmer is stunned when she wakes up one morning to discover the body of a man in the beautiful garden of Lavender Cottage. She’s spent the last few years renovating her cozy, clifftop cottage with its gorgeous views of the sparkling Cornish sea. And a death right under her nose is more than a little unsettling…

When Woody Forrest, Kate’s new husband and the village’s retired detective inspector, takes a closer look he realises the victim is none other than Frank Ford – Woody’s old nemesis. Now, Frank is lying dead amongst the daisies… strangled with Woody’s blue police tie.

Kate is certain the man she loves is not a murderer and is determined to prove his innocence. But who would want to kill Frank and frame Woody? As Kate investigates, Frank’s family seem to be the obvious suspects. Could it be Jason Ford, the youngest son, who has an odd obsession with birdwatching? Sid Kinsella, the angry father-in-law? Or Sharon Mason, the troublesome daughter?

When another member of the Ford family bites the dust while Woody is tending his allotment, it’s clear the killer is determined to bury Woody’s reputation. But when a chance conversation on Bluebell Road provides Kate with a clue, she must find a woman named Rose, who could hold the answers Kate is looking for.

But Kate needs to dig up the truth – and fast! – before poor Woody is thrown behind bars. Can she solve the case and save her husband before it’s too late?

MY THOUGHTS: I’ve loved this series with its brilliant cast of characters, and plots with plenty of red herrings. This case hits a little closer to home for Kate, as her beloved Woody has past history with the victim and is the main suspect. Perhaps that’s why Kate does the absolutely stupid thing she does – putting her own life in danger – that completely took the shine off what otherwise was a great story.

Not only is there a murderer on the loose – Kate is having to deal with her sister’s relationship difficulties, and the possibility that both her sister and a workmate are being targeted by conmen.

I love Kate’s character. She’s sensible, sharp and witty, and I love that she’s a woman in her sixties; which made what she did seem all the more out of character. Angie, Kate’s sister, is another great character. Angie and Kate are polar opposites, but are very loyal to one another.

This is probably my least favourite book in the series so far, but I still enjoyed this entertaining, quick, easy read although I didn’t become as invested in it as I have in the previous books.

While it’s not necessary to have read the previous books in the series as each one is an complete mystery, it does help to understand the relationships and dynamics between the core characters.

⭐⭐⭐.5

#ABodyatLavenderCottage #NetGalley

I: #deemacdonald @bookouture

T: @DMacDonaldAuth @Bookouture

#fivestarread #contemporaryfiction #crime #murdermystery #romance #suspense

THE AUTHOR: Dee MacDonald wrote her very first book – at around seven years of age! This was a love story which she duly illustrated before sewing all the pages together up one side. Writing was what she ‘was good at’ in school and she won several essay competitions, but then life got in the way and she didn’t pick up a pen again until after retirement.

Dee left Scotland and headed for London at the beginning of the swinging sixties. After typing her way round the West End she became an air stewardess on long haul routes with BA (then BOAC) for eight years. After that she did market research at Heathrow for both the government statistics and for BA, she became a sales rep and was the receptionist at the Thames Television Studios in Teddington when they had the franchise.

She then ran a small B&B for ten years in Cornwall, where she lives with her husband. Dee has one son and two grandsons who live locally.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Bookouture via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of A Body at Lavender Cottage for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review is also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

Hidden Scars (DI Kim Stone #17) by Angela Marsons

EXCERPT: The hammer rises in the air.

It falls with unflinching certainty.

The sound of bone cracking fills the silence. Then a moan, a gurgle as blood begins to pour from the hole in her head. In this light it appears black. The glistening richness of the liquid is caught in the lamplight as it escapes like lava from a volcano and runs down the line of her hair.

I am horrified by what I see and yet liberated too. There is no more indecision. No more doubt. We are beyond the point of return. It cannot be undone.

ABOUT ‘HIDDEN SCARS’: While Jamie’s cold, lifeless body lay in the morgue, Detective Kim Stone stared at the empty board in the incident room and felt her anger boil. Why were there no photos, details, or lines of enquiry?

When a nineteen-year-old boy, Jamie Mills, is found hanging from a tree in a local park, his death is ruled a suicide. Detective Kim Stone’s instincts tell her something isn’t right – but it’s not her investigation and her temporary replacement is too busy waiting for the next big case to be asking the right questions.

Why would a seemingly healthy boy choose to end his life?
Why does his mother show no sign of emotional distress at the loss of her son?

Still mending her broken mind and body from her last harrowing case, Kim is supposed to be easing back into work gently. But then she finds a crucial, overlooked detail: Jamie had a recent injury that would have made it impossible for him to climb the tree. He must have been murdered.

Quickly taking back charge of her team and the case, Kim visits Jamie’s parents and is shocked to hear that they had sent him to a clinic to ‘cure’ him of his sexuality. According to his mother, Jamie was introverted and prone to mood swings. Yet his friend speaks of a vibrant, outgoing boy.

The clues to smashing open this disturbing case lie behind the old Victorian walls of the clinic, run by the Gardner family. They claim that patients come of their own accord and are free to leave at any time. But why are those that attended the clinic so afraid to speak of what happens there? And where did the faded restraint marks identified on Jamie’s wrists come from?

Then the body of a young woman is found dead by suffocation and Kim makes two chilling discoveries. The victim spent time at the clinic too, and her death was also staged to look like a suicide.

Scarred from an ordeal that nearly took her life, is Kim strong enough to stop a terrifying killer from silencing the clinic’s previous patients one by one?

MY THOUGHTS: If you haven’t read any previous books in this series, do not start with this. To fully appreciate Hidden Scars the reader needs to know Kim’s backstory and her relationship with her colleagues. Hidden Scars definitely will not work as a stand-alone.

Where to begin? Kim is haunted but resilient, especially when the future of her team is threatened by the incompetence of the DI supposedly holding it all together in her absence.

Kim’s character continues to grow in Hidden Scars and the title of the book reflects Kim’s circumstances as accurately as several of the other characters who feature. She reveals a certain vulnerability that we have not seen before and which takes a bit of getting used to.

Bryant is somewhat responsible for this, deciding that Kim has gotten away with far too much for far too long and gives her a lesson on the meaning and obligations of friendship. And Yay! – we finally learn his first name!

Penn is having to learn a few lessons too, relating to loosening the reins on his younger Downs Syndrome brother who is a bit more switched on than Penn realises.

And where would the team be without Stacey? Dogged and determined she often bears the brunt of the desk work due to her ability to pick up on clues in background information that the others tend to miss.

The mysteries are intriguing, and the main thread is interspersed with the viewpoint of an unknown person which doesn’t quite make sense until almost the very end. The reason for this gobsmacked me! A great storyline and a great twist.

The main storyline includes a great deal of information on conversion therapy, to the point where several times I felt like I was being educated. And I was. I knew what conversion therapy was before I started reading Hidden Scars, but I really had no idea of the extremes to which it could be taken.

But the murders – some staged to look like suicide – are the main focus of the storyline. Marsons is an extremely clever writer, and I had to backtrack a couple of times to check on clues I had missed, but still I had absolutely no idea until the final reveal as to who was behind them. I loved the way the historical murder was also tied in.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

#HiddenScars #NetGalley

I: @angelamarsonsauthor @bookouture

T: @WriteAngie @Bookouture

#contemporaryfiction #fivestarread #crime #detectivefiction #suspense #thriller

THE AUTHOR: Angela is the author of the Kim Stone Crime series. She discovered a love of writing at Primary School when a short piece on the rocks and the sea gained her the only merit point she ever got.
Angela wrote the stories that burned inside and then stored them safely in a desk drawer.
After much urging from her partner she began to enter short story competitions in Writer’s News resulting in a win and three short listed entries.
She used the Amazon KDP program to publish two of her earlier works before concentrating on her true passion – Crime.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Bookouture via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Hidden Scars by Angela Marsons for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review is also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

The Sandcastle Hurricane by Carolyn Brown

EXCERPT: Rising out of the rocky and sandy beach right across the EastBay of southeastern Texas and the Bolivar Peninsula, the Sandcastle Inn had a stone seawall in front of it that had been built with the same gray stones as the house. With twelve-foot ceilings in every room, the inn stood like a tall and proud sentinel keeping watch over the small beach town of Sandcastle. A wide porch wrapped all the way around the first floor and provided a catwalk for the rooms on the second story. Three of the bedrooms faced the Gulf of Mexico – or ‘the ocean’ as Aunt Charlotte called it – and two had a view of the old barn at the back of the property. The house had been home to generations of Landrys, was on the register of historical homes, and had survived more than one hurricane.

ABOUT ‘THE SANDCASTLE HURRICANE’: Cousins Tabby and Ellie Mae are due for a change. Running their aunt’s beachfront bed-and-breakfast in Sandcastle, Texas, is just the thing to shake things up…though their lives spin out of control in more ways than one when a hurricane barrels into the coastline. It’s a miracle it didn’t carry them off to Kansas. Not so lucky are the assisted-living center and a small eclectic group of local folks who take shelter with the cousins.

Two estranged sisters, rowdy as a circus, need a referee for a battle that goes back decades. And a pair of veterans, best friends for years, hash out bittersweet old times. There’s also handyman Alex LaSalle and his business partner, Ricky, experts at repairing the hurricane’s damage—and at making Tabby’s and Ellie Mae’s hearts beat a little faster.

As unpredictable, crowded, and stormy as it gets, the Sandcastle B and B is still the perfect harbor for healing past wounds, finding romance, and making up for lost time. Add in Tabby’s homemade pecan pie, and the Texas shore feels like a little slice of paradise.

MY THOUGHTS: Another heart-warming fun read from Carolyn Brown.

Families – the reason for our existence – the bain of our lives. The Sandcastle Hurricane is a good reminder that parents need to let their children pick their own paths in life; that children are not there to fulfil their parents unrealised dreams, desires and potential.

As always Brown tugs at the heart-strings and I became fully invested in the characters and their outcomes. Two young women who have known much, if different, heart-ache – cousins Tabby and Ellie-Mae – also have precarious relationships with those who should be their nearest and dearest and rely on each other for support and friendship with Aunt Charlotte as back-up. Their plans for the B&B are hi-jacked by a group of residents from a nearby assisted-living facility evacuated to the B&B when their facility is under threat from Hurricane Delilah. The four are made up of Chloe and Maude who are constantly at war, and Homer and Frank who had served in Vietnam together, and then been business partners. What a foursome! The asides between Maude and Chloe had me laughing out loud, while Frank and Homer are the voices of reason – most of the time. Alex and Ricky are the cherries on top – blown in by the hurricane. Who says an ill wind never blows any good?

The Sandcastle Hurricane is a delightful, heart-warming read about taking the chances offered and not closing off either your heart or mind to change. It deals with grief, various forms of loss, the healing properties of pets, and families – the good, the bad, and the downright ugly!

⭐⭐⭐.8

TheSandcastleHurricane #NetGalley

I: @carolynbrownbooks #montlake

T: @thecarolynbrown #Montlake

#contemporaryfiction #familydrama #romance #womensfiction

THE AUTHOR: Hi! I’m twenty five years old and movie star gorgeous. The camera added thirty plus years and a few wrinkles. Can’t trust those cameras or mirrors either. Along with bathroom scales they are notorious liars! Honestly, I am the mother of three fantastic grown children who’ve made me laugh and given me more story ideas than I could ever write. My husband, Charles, is my strongest supporter and my best friend. He’s even willing to eat fast food and help with the laundry while I finish one more chapter! Life is good and I am blessed!

Reading has been a passion since I was five years old and figured out those were words on book pages. As soon as my chubby little fingers found they could put words on a Big Chief tablet with a fat pencil, I was on my way. Writing joined reading in my list of passions. I will read anything from the back of the Cheerio’s box to Faulkner and love every bit of it. In addition to reading I enjoy cooking, my family and the ocean. I love the Florida beaches. Listening to the ocean waves puts my writing brain into high gear.

I love writing romance because it’s about emotions and relationships. Human nature hasn’t changed a bit since Eve coveted the fruit in the Garden of Eden. Settings change. Plots change. Names change. Times change. But love is love and men and women have been falling in and out of it forever. Romance is about emotions: love, hate, anger, laughter… all of it. If I can make you laugh until your sides ache or grab a tissue then I’ve touched your emotions and accomplished what every writer sets out to do.

I got serious about writing when my third child was born and had her days and nights mixed up. I had to stay up all night anyway and it was very quiet so I invested in a spiral back notebook and sharpened a few pencils. The story that emerged has never sold but it’s brought in enough rejection slips to put the Redwood Forest on the endangered list.

Folks ask me where I get my ideas. Three kids, fifteen grandchildren, two great grandchildren. Note: I was a very young grandmother! Life is a zoo around here when they all come home. In one Sunday afternoon there’s enough ideas to keep me writing for years and years. Seriously, ideas pop up at the craziest times. When one sinks its roots into my mind, I have no choice but to write the story. And while I’m writing the characters peek over my shoulder and make sure I’m telling it right and not exaggerating too much. Pesky little devils, they are!

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Montlake via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Sandcastle Hurricane by Carolyn Brown for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

The Couple in the Cabin by Daniel Hurst

EXCERPT: The cabin looked like a warzone. Something truly terrible had happened in there. And it was up to the police to figure it all out.

Sure, the cabin at the bottom of the garden might have been a good idea at one time.

But in the end, it became nothing more than a crime scene.

And worse than that, it became the place where Grace and Dominic really learnt the truth about one another.

ABOUT ‘THE COUPLE IN THE CABIN’: When happily married Grace comes home early one night and catches her husband, Dominic, with another woman in the cabin at the bottom of their garden, she is shocked, angry, and most of all, hell-bent on revenge. That’s why she acts quickly, locking the pair in the cabin while she decides what she wants to do to them.

While Dominic and his mistress desperately try to get free, Grace makes a plan on the outside, but it’s a plan that is formed based on her previous experiences. That’s because this might not be the first time Grace has done something like this…

Who is the real villain? The cheating husband? Or the vengeful wife?

MY THOUGHTS: They say revenge is a dish best eaten cold. Grace has absolutely no intention of letting her desire for revenge go cold. People she loves shouldn’t hurt her, should they? And if they do? Then they deserve everything they get.

Crazy fun is the best description I can come up with for The Couple in the Cabin by Daniel Hurst. This is one of those books where it is best to go in cold, and just enjoy the ride.

Told from multiple perspectives – mainly Grace’s and Dominic’s – and over multiple timelines, we learn what has happened in Grace’s past that made her into the person she is today. While I was outwardly appalled at her actions, some little inner part of me was cheering her on.

The Couple in the Cabin is a quick, fast-paced read that appalled and enthralled me. But there was one set of circumstances that really did not sit well with me – (view spoiler) – and kept this from being a five star read.

I listened to the audiobook of The Couple in the Cabin, superbly narrated by Eilidh Beaton and Matt Bates.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.4

#TheCoupleintheCabin #NetGalley

I: @danielhurstbooks @bookouture

T: @dhurstbooks @Bookouture

THE AUTHOR: Writer/wanderer.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Bookouture Audio via NetGalley for providing an audio ARC of The Couple in the Cabin, written by Daniel Hurst and narrated by Eilidh Beaton and Matt Bates, for review. All opinions expressed in the review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my profile page on Goodreads.com or the about page on Sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review is also posted on Twitter, Instagram, Amazon and Goodreads.com

No Strangers Here (County Kerry Mystery #1) written by Carlene O’Connor, narrated by Emily O’Mahony

EXCERPT: The dead man wore a designer suit to the beach. He was found along Slea Head Drive, at the base of a small cliff, on Clogher Strand. There he was, early on a Sunday morning in June, reposed against a craggy boulder in his fancy navy suit, starched white shirt and vibrant green tie. Next to his body, two words had been formed using sixty-nine gleaming black stones: LAST DANCE. The stones popped against the pale sand. It wasn’t a whisper, it was a shout. His legs were straight out in front of him, his hands rested palms up on his thighs, and his sky-blue eyes were open, forever staring out to sea. The only visible sign of distress was the white foam pooling at the corners of his gaped mouth. The lines fanning out across his face, and wisps of silver hair clinging to a mostly bald head betrayed his advanced age. A card with a black background peeked out of the dead man’s suit pocket. Detective Inspector Cormac O’Brien maneuvered around the cordon they’d placed around the body to get a closer look.

ABOUT ‘NO STRANGERS HERE’: On a rocky beach in the southwest of Ireland, the body of Jimmy O’Reilly, sixty-nine years old and dressed in a suit and his dancing shoes, is propped on a boulder, staring sightlessly out to sea. A cryptic message is spelled out next to the body with sixty-nine polished black stones and a discarded vial of deadly veterinarian medication lies nearby. Jimmy was a wealthy racehorse owner, known far and wide as The Dancing Man. In a town like Dingle, everyone knows a little something about everyone else. But dig a bit deeper, and there’s always much more to find. And when Detective Inspector Cormac O’Brien is dispatched out of Killarney to lead the murder inquiry, he’s determined to unearth every last buried secret.

Dimpna Wilde hasn’t been home in years. As picturesque as Dingle may be for tourists in search of their roots and the perfect jumper, to her it means family drama and personal complications. In fairness, Dublin hasn’t worked out quite as she hoped either. Faced with a triple bombshell—her mother rumored to be in a relationship with Jimmy, her father’s dementia is escalating, and her brother is avoiding her calls—Dimpna moves back to clear her family of suspicion.

Despite plenty of other suspects, the guards are crawling over the Wildes. But the horse business can be a brutal one, and as Dimpna becomes more involved with her old acquaintances and haunts, the depth of lingering grudges becomes clear. Theft, extortion, jealousy and greed. As Dimpna takes over the family practice, she’s in a race with the detective inspector to uncover the dark, twisting truth, no matter how close to home it strikes . . .

MY THOUGHTS: No Strangers Here is a mystery thick with both atmosphere and compelling characters. O’Connor sets the scene in the very first chapter, leaving the reader in doubt where they are: a colorful and historic town right on the coast of southwest Ireland relying on tourism and fishing for its livelihood. The scenery is gorgeous and moody, the characters complex and all hiding something.

O’Brien has been brought in as an outsider to solve the murder of a wealthy and well-known local man. As an outsider it is expected that he have no history with anyone involved, no personal agenda. But is that going to be enough to combat the far-reaching powers of the wealthy O’Reilly family who have already made up their minds who is responsible for this murder and are calling for a speedy arrest. Dimpna, a petite veterinarian whose own life has imploded, now finds herself battling not only the O’Reilly’s but the police in an effort to clear her parents from suspicion. Dimpna has battled the O’Reilly’s before – there’s no love lost there. What she discovers is a tangled web of secrets and lies, some going back as far as her childhood.

I have read some of Carlene O’Connors Village Mystery books previously, but here her writing has reached a whole new level. Somewhat darker than a traditional cosy-mystery, and with plot-twists I never saw coming, O’Connor kept me intrigued throughout. County Kerry Mysteries is a new series that I am excited about.

I listened to the audiobook of No Strangers Here, superbly narrated by Emily O’Mahony

⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

#NoStrangersHere #NetGalley

I: @writergirlchi @recordedbooks

T: #CarleneOConnor @RBMediaCo

#cosymystery #contemporaryfiction #crime #detectivefiction #family drama #irishfiction #murdermystery #smalltownfiction

THE AUTHOR: Born into a long line of Irish storytellers, Carlene O’Connor’s great-grandmother emigrated from Ireland filled with tales in 1897 and the stories have been flowing ever since. Of all the places she’s wandered across the pond, she fell most in love with a walled town in County Limerick and was inspired to create the town of Kilbane, County Cork, the setting of her Irish Village Mystery series.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to RB Media for providing an audio ARC of No Strangers Here, written by Carlene O’Connor and narrated by Emily Mahony, for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review is also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

Auld Acquaintance by Sofia Slater

EXCERPT: It wasn’t Nick sitting with a magazine on the shabby tartan sofa in the next room. My heart, which had been fluttering with expectation, began pounding with dread. I took a step back, hoping to get away, though I knew I couldn’t. Nestled innocently between the sofa cushions, gently illuminated by the firelight, was someone I didn’t want to see at all. Someone I’d been avoiding for a year. Someone I’d hoped never to see again.

ABOUT ‘AULD ACQUAINTANCE’: Millie Partridge desperately needs a party. So, when her (handsome and charming) ex-colleague Nick invites her to a Hebridean Island for New Year’s Eve, she books her ticket North.

But things go wrong the moment the ferry drops her off. The stately home is more down at heel than Downton Abbey. Nick hasn’t arrived yet. And the other revellers? Politely, they aren’t exactly who she would have pictured Nick would be friends with.

Worse still, an old acquaintance from Millie’s past has been invited, too. Penny Maybury. Millie and Nick’s old colleague. Somebody Millie would rather have forgotten about. Somebody, in fact, that Millie has been trying very hard to forget.

Waking up on New Year’s Eve, Penny is missing. A tragic accident? Or something more sinister? With a storm washing in from the Atlantic, nobody will be able reach the group before they find out.

One thing is for sure – they’re going to see in the new year with a bang.

MY THOUGHTS: I loved this tense, atmospheric page turner of a ‘locked room mystery’; or, in this case, an isolated Hebridean island. Using the same format as the reknowned Christie novel ‘And Then There Were None’, which I must admit is not one of my favourites, Slater had me eagerly flipping the pages in this short – a little less than 300 pages – but riveting story. And yes, I have rated Auld Acquaintance higher than the Christie. I enjoyed it more.

The setting is a remote and isolated island; ‘a resentful rock’ easily cut off from the world in bad weather, just as they are having this New Year. It is a character in its own right.

Millie has been invited to the Island party by an ex-boyfriend she is hopeful of resuming her relationship with. But when she arrives on the Island, Nick is not there. Cut off by a storm, two other guests dead en-route, Millie becomes uneasy. Winston, one of the other guests, a lawyer scares her and she doesn’t trust him. She is shocked to find Penny, a quiet, mousey ex-work colleague is also among the guests, along with a glamorous but prickly influencer Bella, and her handsome but somewhat profligate partner, Ravi. Then there’s James, who doesn’t really seem to fit in anywhere, and their hostess Mrs Flyte, a rather peculiar woman not inclined to answer the questions of her guests – particularly the questions about the source of this booking. They were all invited – but by whom? And why?

I honestly didn’t know who to suspect. The author ramps up the tension in a creepy old house in an isolated location with a mixed bag of guests who initially seem to have no connection, nothing in common. Throughout the story, I had no idea who was behind the killings, or why, no matter how much I wracked my brain.

Cleverly written and a fun read.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

#AuldAcquiantance #NetGalley

I: @_swiftpress

T: @_SwiftPress

#contemporaryfiction #murdermystery #scottishnoir

THE AUTHOR: Sofia Slater was raised in the American West, and lived in France, Scotland and Oxford before settling in London. As well as writing fiction, she translates from French and Spanish. Auld Acquaintance is her debut novel.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Swift Press via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Auld Acquaintance by Sofia Slater for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com.

This review is also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

The Next Best Day by Sharon Sala

EXCERPT: Katie holed up in her apartment for the entire week that would have been her honeymoon. She slept away the shock, then ate away the rage, and ignored the phone calls from everyone but Lila. Those she took, only to reassure her best friend that she was still kicking. By the time she was ready to go back to Saguaro Elementary, she had her game face on.

It took that week of solitude to remind herself that, in the grand scheme of things, her heart had been broken, but nobody had died. She was tougher than some man’s lies. She didn’t need a man to take care of her. She didn’t need anyone, ever again.

ABOUT ‘THE NEXT BEST DAY’: A fresh start for a young teacher to build the life she’s dreamt of
A second chance at romance for a single dad
The warm and uplifting small-town community cheering them on

After two back-to-back life-changing events, first grade teacher Katie McGrath left Albuquerque for a fresh start in Borden’s Gap, Tennessee. She is finally back in the classroom where she belongs, but it will take a little while for her to heal and feel truly like herself. She’ll need to dig deep to find the courage it takes to try again—in life and in love—but with some help from her neighbor Sam Youngblood and his adorable daughters who bring her out of her shell, her future is looking brighter than she dared imagine.

MY THOUGHTS: The last thing I expected when I began The Next Best Day by Sharon Sala was that I would be reading about a drug cartel, familial abuse, and an elementary school shooting. This read was sure full of surprises! Not all of them pleasant.

I loved the main character, Katie. What a wonderfully inspiring teacher and person she is. And Sam is equally wonderful in his own way; a dedicated and loving father, a pillar of the community. I love the little town of Borden’s Gap, Tennessee, that Katie moves to for her new start in life, and where Sam lives.

I didn’t much like the storyline involving Mark and his wife. It was extraneous and detracted from the main story. It would have been enough just to hear from Lila that he didn’t get his HEA. I didn’t need a front row seat. Then, after having bits of Mark’s story scattered throughout, it’s never really finished off.

This is my first book by Sharon Sala, so I don’t know if she routinely includes these violent episodes in her books. I was looking forward to a heartwarming small town story, which I got. But I was not expecting the violence, and it didn’t sit well with me, and nor did it seem to gel with the rest of the book. Will I read more from this author? Yes, because I loved the Katie/Sam story. But if these random threads of violence are a trademark of Sala’s, our relationship will be short lived.

⭐⭐⭐.4

#NetGalley

I: @sharonkaysala_ @sourcebookscasa

T: @SourcebooksCasa

THE AUTHOR: As a farmer’s daughter, and then for many years a farmer’s wife, Sharon Sala began writing because she hated her job, but it was the love of the craft that kept her writing. Her first attempts were stuffed under her bed to be forgotten in the hustle and bustle of life with a growing family. It wasn’t until the tragic losses of two close family members that she vowed to follow through on her earlier dreams of writing. She joined writers groups and attended conferences to learn the craft.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Sourcebooks, Casablanca, via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Next Best Day by Sharon Sala for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review is also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

The Work Wives by Rachael Johns

EXCERPT: As Deb headed into the kitchen, Quinn picked up an old magazine from a neat stack on the coffee table. She guessed it belonged to Ramona – she loved how Deb’s daughter was obsessed with all things vintage. She flipped through the pages, shaking her head at the images of women in aprons, pearls and pretty dresses advertising kitchen appliances alongside slogans like ‘wifesaver’ and ‘my washdays are now holidays’. As if these ads weren’t preposterous enough, an article about romance made her laugh so hard she almost spilt her drink.

‘What’s so funny?’ Deb asked, returning with a plate of cheese, crackers, dip and carrot sticks.

‘Have you seen this? It’s an article about how to get a husband. Seriously, no wonder I haven’t found Mr Right yet. Turns out I’ve been doing it all wrong.’

ABOUT ‘THE WORK WIVES’: How well do you really know the people you work with?

For work wives Debra and Quinn, it’s a case of opposites attract. They are each other’s lifelines as they navigate office politics and jobs that pay the bills but don’t inspire them.

Outside work, they are also friends, but where Quinn is addicted to dating apps and desperate to find love, Deb has sworn off men. Although Deb is not close to her own mother, her teenage daughter is her life and there’s nothing she wouldn’t do to protect her. But Ramona has other ideas and is beginning to push boundaries.

Life becomes even more complicated by the arrival of a new man at the office. One woman is attracted to him, while the other hoped she’d never meet him again.

But when Deb, Quinn and Ramona are forced to choose between friends, love and family, the ramifications run deeper than they could ever have expected.

MY THOUGHTS: I blew hot and cold throughout The Work Wives by Rachael Johns. There were parts that had me chuckling and amused, parts that had me scratching my head, and a couple of times I flirted with the temptation to simply close the covers and not reopen them.

The Work Wives covers a lot of topics – far too many – and a lot of pages – again, far too many at 500+. Topics: romance; bullying (in just about every form imaginable); abuse; misogyny; identity theft; rape; early onset Alzheimer’s; aging; family and friendship. And there’s probably more. For me, it just didn’t work. There’s too much going on, and it all takes far too long to explain and evolve.

Ramona, Elijah and Lucy are the outstanding characters. Tristan was too nice and good to be true, and Deb – I could neither warm nor relate to her. I often didn’t understand her decisions. Quinn was zany and entertaining, but again . . .

If you are looking for an entertaining rom-com, you’re only going to find it sporadically here. No matter what you’re looking for, you’re only going to find it sporadically.

Overall – disappointing. This was my first book by Rachael Johns, and although I didn’t much enjoy this, I’ve been assured by friends who are solid admirers that this isn’t her best, so I’m sure that I will be reading more by her.

⭐⭐.2

#TheWorkWives #NetGalley

I: @rachealjohnsauthor @harlequinaus

T: @HarlequinAUS

#contemporaryfiction #familydrama #friendship #romance #womensfiction

THE AUTHOR: Rachael Johns is an English teacher by trade, a supermarket owner by day, a mum 24/7, and a writer by night. She lives in rural Western Australia with her hyperactive husband and three mostly-gorgeous heroes-in-training. (RachaelJohns.com)

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Harlequin Australia, HQ & MIRA via Netgalley, for providing a digital ARC of The Work Wives by Rachael Johns for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review is also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

Foster by Claire Keegan

EXCERPT: With my mother it is all work: us, the butter making, the dinners, the washing-up and getting up and getting ready for Mass and school, weaning calves and hiring men to plough and harrow the fields, stretching the money and setting the alarm. But this is a different type of house. Here there is room, and time to think. There may even be money to spare.

ABOUT ‘FOSTER’: A small girl is sent to live with foster parents on a farm in rural Ireland, without knowing when she will return home. In the strangers’ house, she finds a warmth and affection she has not known before and slowly begins to blossom in their care. And then a secret is revealed and suddenly, she realizes how fragile her idyll is.

MY THOUGHTS: Claire Keegan writes with a poetic beauty that reminds me of calm waves lapping at the shore. Although the reality of where this young girl has come from, and will be returned to, is harsh and stark, Keegan’s writing is anything but.

There is a stunning emotional depth in this novella. Keegan conveys much in very few pages. There are a lot of lessons to be learned here on how to treat a child, and the blossoming of this girl away from a life of overcrowded poverty, just one of many children, in a place where she is recognised and cherished as a person in her own right, is a wonderous experience.

I have been awed by everything I have so far read by this author.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

#Foster #NetGalley

I: #clairekeeganfiction @groveatlantic

T: @CKeeganFiction @GroveAtlantic

#fivestarread #historicalfiction #irishfiction #novella #sliceoflife

THE AUTHOR: Claire Keegan was born in County Wicklow, the youngest of a large family. She travelled to New Orleans, Louisiana when she was seventeen, and studied English and Political Science at Loyola University. She returned to Ireland in 1992 and lived for a year in Cardiff, Wales, where she undertook an MA in creative writing and taught undergraduates at the University of Wales.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Grove Atlantic via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Foster by Claire Keegan for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review is also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com