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The Cinderella Reflex by Joan Brady

thecinderellareflex

Length: 338 pages

Note: The cover image leads to a universal Amazon Book link 

What they say:It’s time to stop waiting for prince charming and rescue yourself

No matter how strong and independent Tess Morgan appeared on the outside, she was always let down by her inner five-year-old – who persistently believed that one day her Prince would come.

Real life is tough. For Tess, her job with struggling local radio station Atlantic 1FM is very tough. Between dealing with the demands of her megalomaniac presenter Ollie Andrews, her neurotic boss Helene Harper and the crazy workload associated with her role as producer on the This Morning programme, sometimes she just wants someone who will make all the problems go away.

Helene, meanwhile, is having difficulties of her own. Coming up to her fortieth milestone birthday, her career has taken a wrong turning down an unpleasant cul-de-sac and she’s becoming impatient for the day when her married lover will make an honest woman of her.

Things go from bad to worse when Atlantic 1FM is suddenly bought over by mogul Jack McCabe, who immediately launches a competition for a new star at the station. Soon nerves are frayed and friendships strained as everyone battles to keep their jobs.

Tess gets back in touch with the ex she still thinks of as The One Who Got Away. Helene tries to pull strings with her influential lover.

But what will it take for both women to stop playing Cinderella and find a way to launch their own rescue?

The Review: I had seen both this book and the author, Joan Brady at the Wexford Literary festival and it had gone on my tbr straight away and so I was beyond thrilled to be offered it for review. But instead of starting with the beginning of the book, I’ll move to a little bit before that and turn to the dedication:

‘For Vera, who inspired me to write in the first place with these words of wisdom: “All you have to do to get good marks in English is to make things up.”‘

which, straight off the bat, I found to be so charming, and so, smiling, I settled down to read, happy to get going.

Tess Morgan is struggling at her job at a radio station. This setting was excellent, as we got a real feel for day to day events and issues and the problems that will kill a good, or indeeed sometimes average shows. These shows are more the problem for Tess, along with a highly strung presenter, Ollie Andrews, who she is charged with managing. This was coupled with the daily chore of dealing with her boss, Helene, who is constantly on her back, a falling listenership and talk of a takeover. The book is very much character driven and there were some characters I loved and others I didn’t warm to as much, but I loved that we got to know Helene too, that it wasn’t just Tess’ opinion of her.

The whole book had a lovely homely feel to it, very Irish, and I read it in two nights, very much engrossed and unable to put it down, in fact I was loathe to put it down and would easily have read in one night had I been able to. I predicted some of the occurrences and was thrilled when they happened exactly as I hoped they would. This was especially true for some of the comedy moments, which I really enjoyed.

At times there were a few niggles, some repetition in terms of wording, but that could have been me being a little pernickety. My other  issue turned out to be quite a big one for me, that perhaps it felt a little like I’d read it in the wrong time, I felt that I’d have connected with all of that better a few years ago during the recession as opposed to ‘post recession’ (I know we’re not fully post recession but for some reason I just couldn’t reconcile this with the present day).

Even though the subject matter is one that could potentially and rightly cause debate, how talented, intelligent women don’t fulfill their destiny because they’re waiting for their prince to rescue them, I found this to be a very enjoyable, light, easy-going read, one for people who like some homely, charming comedy.

Thanks so much to the author Joan Brady, Poolbeg and to Tracy Brennan from Trace Literary Agency  for the book in return for an honest review.

About the author

joanbrady

 

Joan Brady is is an award-winning Irish journalist and broadcast producer. She started her career as a features writer and newspaper columnist for Independent Newspapers and later worked as a researcher, producer and scriptwriter for RTE, Ireland’s national television and radio station.

The Cinderella Reflex is her first novel and is published by Poolbeg press

Her second novel, Reinventing Susannah, also published by Poolbeg, is coming soon!

Joan is represented by US-based Tracy Brennan from Trace Literary Agency

Find her on:

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Christmas Under A Starlit Sky by Holly Martin (Book 2 of the ‘A Town Called Christmas’ Series)

christmasunderastarlitsky

What they say: Step inside a beautiful winter wonderland where love, laughter and cosy nights by the fire will make this Christmas one to remember.

Neve Whitaker loves managing the Stardust Lake hotel. She gets to work alongside her wonderful family and she’s spending Christmas on the most enchanting, snow-covered island in Scotland. So why is her heart so heavy this festive season?

It might have something to do with the gorgeous actor Oakley Rey, the man she finished with before he left for California and the man she loves more than anything. With Oakley’s career in Hollywood soaring, Neve is convinced she’d only hold him back. She had to end it with him – at least that’s what she keeps telling herself.

But now she has a secret she’s struggling to keep, and when Oakley arrives on Juniper Island determined to win her back, Neve is thrown off balance. Will Neve’s fear of having her heart broken again push Oakley away for good, or is it time for her to take a leap of faith?

Get swept away by this deliciously sweet and heartwarming tale, and spend an unforgettable Christmas on Juniper Island.

 

The review: I had heard so much about the first book of this series, Christmas Under a Cranberry Sky, that when I saw this on Netgalley I was absolutely thrilled. I had read ‘Tied Up with Love‘ (by Holly Martin writing as Amelia Thorne) before I started blogging, and knew Ms. Martin’s romance and comedy to be exemplary, and her pacing excellent and again they didn’t disappoint.

There were four main characters in this book- and we meet them at the Stardust Lake Hotel where Neve is manager and Adam is on contract. I say four main characters but actually, there were a lot of minor characters here too, and I think that reading the first in this series would have been better to start with. Neve and Oakley have history and are trying to figure out whether they are willing to make it work (he is a famous actor whose life is in America, she is on Juniper Island in Scotland). It says in the blurb that Neve has a secret to keep and yes, it is a big one, with many missed chances for the revelation coming and going. This will annoy quite a few people, as there were roadblocks a plenty, and yes, some of them I predicted, in a ‘if such and such happened now it would be crazy,’ and then it would happen and yet, this book still hit the mark for me. I’m afraid the only issue I had was that I found some of the story to be a little confusing, in particular I didn’t have a feel for who the characters were in terms of their age and appearance and had to skip back in places to figure out what was going on, this could have been an editing issue or it could have just been me, I’m not sure to be honest.

There was another ‘will they, won’t they’ which was filled with lovely moments that were really sweet and had me nodding along. As I said above, Ms.Martin’s romance is perfection as was the chemistry in the book and the (cough) sex. What with that and the constant drama that had me read this in two evenings, it was a book I thoroughly enjoyed. Thanks to Netgalley for the book in return for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Beyond The Lens (Lucy Mitchell book 1) by Hannah Ellis

beyond

Please note the cover image leads to a Universal Amazon link for the book

What they say:

Who says the camera never lies?

When twenty-six-year-old Lucy Mitchell loses her job, she
momentarily loses her mind too and agrees to take part in
a reality TV show. Before she knows it she’s jetting off to a
piece of paradise on a beautiful Spanish island.
Much to her surprise, Lucy makes new friends and has
the time of her life, even indulging in a behind-the-scenes
romance with a hunky cameraman.
Convinced the production will never make it to the screen,
Lucy is on cloud nine, but she soon finds that things are not always as they seem

 

The Review: You’ll remember I reviewed Friends Like These by Hannah Ellis (read review here  ) and My Kind Of Perfect (review here and extract here) and was thrilled with how warm and relatable her characters were, and how easy it was to fall into the story lines and accompany said characters on their journeys. This book, I’m happy to say, also ticked the box in this regard, plus so many more.

We meet Lucy Mitchell, shocked by the fact that she’s just lost her job, and in the mood to rebel just a little:

‘I’d never stolen anything before in my life. I couldn’t even bring myself to take a mint from the bowl beside the till at the hairdresser, so I was quite proud of the stapler in my handbag. At first, I’d considered returning it. I’d actually retraced my steps, sure I couldn’t live with the knowledge that I was basically a common thief.’

And that’s Lucy. Someone who has the hint of a rebel inside her that has tried to conform as much as possible. I warmed to Lucy straight away, as I did with most of the characters and smiled very early on in the book as Lucy realised that she was going to take her Mum’s, who’s motto surely is ‘seize the day,’ advice and do just that. I accompanied Lucy on holidays, again, as with Ms. Ellis’ other books, walking alongside her, grinning as events unfolded, and wondering where this journey would take her personally. I enjoyed the pacing, which ambled along in a book full of warm, light hearted banter, with friendships and romances blooming all around. There was everyday, easygoing action, as the contestants completed trials to get prizes, with comedy interspersed.

I must admit I then wondered what we were catching a glimpse of when hints of mystery were flashed at us. I knew that there was something coming, and was not prepared for the twist that arose. When I saw ‘part 2’ and things began to speed up, I was beyond surprised. The twist was great, and I began to question everyone ‘we’ had met, including Adam, which came as a surprise to me. This gave me my only issue, because although I had enjoyed the first part and was taken along with it, when the pacing picked up in part 2, I did wish that part 1 had been that bit more snappy and part 2 had been prolonged, just a little.

The characters were great, ones I look forward to meeting again, the romance was every gorgeous shade of perfect, and the comedy, warmth and mystery definitely satisfied.

Rating: 4/5

About the author

Hannahellis

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The Things I Should Have Told You by Carmel Harrington

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Please note that the cover image leads to a universal Amazon buy link for the book

What they say:

Every family has a story…

But for the Guinness family a happy ending looks out of reach. Olly and Mae’s marriage is crumbling, their teenage daughter Evie is on a mission to self-destruct and their beloved Pops is dying of cancer. Their once strong family unit is slowly falling apart.

But Pops has one final gift to offer his beloved family – a ray of hope to cling to. As his life’s journey draws to a close, he sends his family on an adventure across Europe in a camper van, guided by his letters, his wisdom and his love.

Because Pops knows that all his family need is time to be together, to find their love for each other and to find their way back home…

The Review: I have to start by reminding you of ‘Every time a bell rings’ which I reviewed last year (see review here) and re-iterating what a powerhouse author Carmel Harrington is. I’m lucky enough to know Carmel, through the Imagine, Write, Inspire writing group I belong to, and she is seriously one of the most vibrant, helpful, amazing people I’ve ever met. There’s a reason I’m telling you this, and that is that this book very much matches her personality. It is a book full of warmth, family and hope, a book that is full of messages and ideals, all nicely bundled together with fantastic imagery and great characters. I really enjoyed this book. I read it over three nights, and each day thought about it and looked forward to sitting down with it. As you can see from the blurb it involves a family that is falling apart heading off on a camper van journey. The journey itself is long, and puts us in different locations with so much description, that I found myself actually thinking of the day when I might bring my children on a similar one, to experience the culture and history and beauty that was ever present here. There were so many moments of faraway enchanting symbolism that were excellant.

There were arguments and tension that are all too real in family life, and a number of chords were struck. That being said I suppose I found at times it was a little too innocent especially in terms of the children, and they seemed old beyond their years at times but I don’t have girls so I just may not know what I’m talking about here!

I have to say that over that last year my taste in books has changed a lot, which I suppose it should. I used to struggle with books such as this, that were very homely, and Irish, with warm, wholesome romance but now I must say this is very much up my street. A special mention to Pops, I worried about him through out the book and was afraid to reach the end (not a spoiler!) Very much recommended and actually one I’ll be shouting about in the shorter evenings, where books such as this serve as a treat to be consumed in front of a fire, or at least in a warm room with the rain beating down outside. I loved this book.

Rating: 4.5/5

Note: I don’t know if I’ve told you previously about how I live for The Irish Book Awards? It pretty much dictates my reading in the Winter months, and I’ve found some of my favourite authors that way. Well now Ms. Harrington is nominated for this award. If you have read this book and want to vote for her look in the Sunday Independent Newcomer of the Year award here, or even if you just want to have a gander at the range of books and throw in a few votes for those you have read and enjoyed over the year from Irish authors then see fiction awards here . See non fiction here .

Enjoy voting (closes midnight 11th November 2016)!

Extract-Better In The Morning by Fern Ronay

Following my review of Better In The Morning yesterday (see review here), I’m thrilled to give you an extract of the book. Thanks again to the author for the book in return for an honest review and of course for the extract! Remember it’s only $0.99 at the moment!

betterinthemorning

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Length: 293 pages

Note: The cover image leads to an universal Amazon buy link for the book

What they say: Veronica Buccino has a plan: marry John DelMonico and quit her soul-sucking job as a lawyer. And when he tells her he has big news, she’s certain he’ll pop the question. But instead of proposing, John informs her that he’s moving to London.

Heartbroken, Veronica feels lost. Salvatore and Antoinette, her dead grandparents, begin to visit her dreams in an attempt to steer her in the right direction. At their suggestion, Veronica takes a news reporting class, which leads to a challenging freelance assignment covering a conspiracy trial. She also begins dating an unlikely suitor: creative Syd Blackman.

Just when her love life and career are looking up, Veronica is tossed back to square one by an event that makes her question all her new choices.

The Extract:

“‘Overnight parking. Ten dollars an hour.’ That’ll cost ya a pretty penny,” Grandpa Sal said.

“‘Intermix. Sale.’ Look at that. They’re havin’ a big sale,” Grandma Ant pointed out.

I sat between my grandparents in the back of a cab. It was impossible to go two blocks without one of them reading a sign aloud.

“‘P.J. Clarkes.’ I knew a P.J. years ago. Peter Joseph. The Scarpettas. Nice family. Owned a butcher shop.”

I was squished, my knees high up as my feet rested on the hump in the middle.

“‘Haru.’ That’s that sushi stuff you like, right, Veronica?” My grandmother patted my leg. “She enjoys her sushi, our Veronica. Gah bless her.”

I studied the back of her head as she looked out the window. Her tight, white curls were sprayed in place.

“Why don’t you try sushi, Antoinette?” my grandfather teased.

“Why don’t you try it, Salvatore? Big shot. I’d like to see ya try that raw fish.”

My grandfather laughed without making a noise, his chubby hands on his big belly as he cracked himself up. “With a little gravy, a little mozzarella, I might like it.”

I smiled at the pronunciation. “Mootzadel,” I whispered to myself. My non-Italian friends always laughed at how I said it.

“I’ll believe that when I see it.” My grandmother leaned past me to look over at my grandfather.

“‘High-End Home Furnishings.’” My grandfather pointed. “That’s where they try to sell ya a ten-dollar vase for a hundred dollars. They call it high end.”

I laughed. I had bought a hundred-dollar vase there when I moved to the city.

“They got some beautiful stuff,” Grandma Ant countered.

The cab stopped at a red light, and I sat up to stretch my back. My grandmother took that opportunity to push my long, brown hair to the side and rub my back. The woman can’t keep her hands off me.

We were on our way to get cupcakes. I reminded myself that, technically, I was sleeping. And technically, I wouldn’t really eat a cupcake. And technically, my grandparents were dead.

But it all felt real—the cupcake, the cab, my grandparents—and technically, that was all that mattered.

I looked up as the light turned green. On our next visit, we’ll be discussing the big news.

“Right here,” I told the taxi driver as we pulled in front of The Cupcake Shop on West Seventy-Second Street. We hopped out without paying the cabbie. That was how it worked there—the waiters and waitresses and taxi drivers on the other side never expected to get paid. Grandpa Sal would say that was why they called it Heaven.

As my grandmother and I surveyed the selection in the glass case, my grandfather tapped my shoulder. “They don’t sell cannoli here? What kinda bakery is this?”

“Oh, um…” I looked up at the blackboard menu above the counter. “Nope. Sorry, Gramp. They have really good cupcakes though.”

“Cupcakes? Who wants a cupcake?”

“Don’t listen to him, Veronica,” my grandmother said. “He’s a pain in the coolie. What are you getting? I’m gonna have the red velvet. My friend Ruth was here with her grandson last week and said the red velvet is out of this world.”

“I’ll have the red velvet too,” I said.

My grandmother ordered, and as we left with our cupcakes, she stopped at the condiment bar to grab a handful of sugar packets. Before I could say “Gram, seriously?” she shrugged. “What? For my coffee later on.”

At restaurants, she used to take the leftover bread from the basket, wrap it in a napkin, and stuff it in her pocketbook. It mortified my mother and me, but she would say something about living through the Great Depression and ‘going without’ and ‘It’s a sin to let it go to waste.’

In front of the bakery, the three of us squeezed on a bench that I couldn’t recall ever having seen there before. My grandfather bit into a cannoli that came from I don’t know where. Another reason they call it Heaven.

The weather was perfect—a clear, crisp day, cool in the shade, warm in the sun.

I hope the weather is just like this tomorrow night.

“It’ll be like this tomorrow night,” Grandma Ant said. She was concentrating as she slowly pulled off the wrapper of her cupcake.

“I’m excited, but I don’t want to say too much,” I said. “I’m always afraid of jinxing things.”

I thought I heard Grandpa Sal make a noise. A “Ha” or a “Huh.” I turned to him as he furiously wiped cannoli powder off his sweater.

“Did you say something?”
“Me? No.” He wiped faster.
I peeled the wrapper off my cupcake and took a big bite. I closed

my eyes, enjoying the sun on my face as I worked my mouth around the perfect combination of cream cheese frosting and moist red cake.

“Look out!” my grandfather shouted.

I bolted up, eyes wide open. “What the fu—” I caught myself. “What?” I swiveled my head up and down the street and turned to look behind me toward the bakery, but I saw nothing amiss.

“That biker almost slammed into that car over there.” My grandfather motioned to the street with a jut of his chin.

“Or ya could say the car almost slammed into that bike rider,” my grandmother said.

“What? Stuff like that doesn’t happen here.” I looked around, still trying to find the biker and car in question.

“Nah, but ya know”—my grandfather held the cannoli wrapper in a tight ball in his fist—“close calls are always good reminders.”

“Gotta brace yourself,” Grandma Ant whispered. “For what?” I asked.

“Ya know—this, that, the other thing. Life, Veronica. Life.” Finished with her cupcake, she ran her pinky along each side of her mouth, making sure her orangey-red lipstick was still intact.

I looked back toward the street. Couples were holding hands as they walked. Young mothers pushed strollers.

“I don’t want to hear that,” I said. “Don’t I brace myself enough? Aren’t I nervous enough? Can’t I enjoy this?” I let out a satisfying exhale. “Can’t I enjoy this cupcake?” I sat back and took another bite. I chewed slowly when I felt my grandmother reach over and start smoothing my hair. I tried not to flinch or swat, but I did a sort of ducking motion instead. “Can you—can you—just please, Gram. Can I savor this in peace? Please.”

“Oh, yeah, yeah, sweetheart, of course. You enjoy.”

“You wanna have your cupcake and eat it too?” Grandpa Sal laughed. Grandma Ant laughed too.

I stifled an eye roll. “Yes.”
“Good luck, my little brasciole,” Grandpa said.
They know something. I can feel it, and I know I should ask them directly.

But I didn’t ask. Instead, I did the only thing I knew how to do up to that point: I ignored that uncomfortable feeling and focused on my cupcake. Cream cheese frosting is Heaven.

 About the author:

fernronay

Nobody says it better than the author herself! Read about Fern Ronay on her website here

On Goodreads

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On Snapchat @FernRonay

Better In The Morning by Fern Ronay

betterinthemorningAmazon

Barnes and Noble

Length: 293 pages

Note: The cover image leads to an universal Amazon buy link for the book

What they say: Veronica Buccino has a plan: marry John DelMonico and quit her soul-sucking job as a lawyer. And when he tells her he has big news, she’s certain he’ll pop the question. But instead of proposing, John informs her that he’s moving to London.

Heartbroken, Veronica feels lost. Salvatore and Antoinette, her dead grandparents, begin to visit her dreams in an attempt to steer her in the right direction. At their suggestion, Veronica takes a news reporting class, which leads to a challenging freelance assignment covering a conspiracy trial. She also begins dating an unlikely suitor: creative Syd Blackman.

Just when her love life and career are looking up, Veronica is tossed back to square one by an event that makes her question all her new choices.

The Review: We meet Veronica with her grandparents Salvatore and Antoinette, having a run of the mill conversation that set the tone nicely. All are Italian, and I loved the tone, nuances and warmth of it all. The grandparents, as you most probably read in the blurb, are deceased, but Veronica can see, feel and speak to them as if they are alive. I have to admit, I’m not usually one for the supernatural, but Ms. Ronay did this beyond perfectly. I loved her grandparents, who gave us many sayings, words of wisdom and life lessons, throughout the book actually, with peeks into the past and the future. They also gave us sparks of comedy that hit the mark and made me smile regularly.

The story is of Veronica, who is waiting for her big break-from her career. She hates being a lawyer, and can’t take much more of her colleagues, Beverly and Kate, who seem to glean every ounce of happiness they can from Veronica, by throwing extra work and late nights at her constantly. Although they weren’t the nicest of people, they threw up one of my problems with this book-the fact that I found Veronica to be horrendously lazy! If she hadn’t spent so much time on the internet, looking up human interest stories, she wouldn’t have had to stay so late in the first place (I know, I’m harsh, but she was very lazy!) I couldn’t warm to her, there were a number of times I felt she overreacted, and I got a bit too much of the ‘I usually take too much rubbish from people’ vibe from her. I’m afraid at times this soured the story for me, just a little.  Aside from her, all of the characters did their jobs well, I enjoyed Jada, obviously loved the grandparents, and her parents, and Syd … oh how I loved Syd from the second he appeared! I looked forward to reading and read very quickly, there were many moments I truly enjoyed, and I always looked forward to picking it up. A nice light read that will be enjoyed by many, and only $0.99 at the moment! Tomorrow I’ll bring you an excerpt from the book. Thanks to the author for the book in return for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

About the author:

fernronay

Nobody says it better than the author herself! Read about Fern Ronay on her website here

On Goodreads

On Facebook

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On Snapchat @FernRonay

 

 

A Village Romance (Book 2 in the Little Perran Romance series) by Lynda Renham writing as Amy Perfect

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Note: As always the cover image leads you to a universal Amazon buy link for the book

What they say:

As a heatwave rolls into Little Perran, so does love. Billy Baxter, the has-been rock star, and Rafe Wylde, the hunky farm worker arrive, both destined to cause havoc as they touch the lives of the villagers. Milly finds a new job and things start to look up for her, but she is unaware that a ghost from her past is looking for her. 

Funny, Compassionate and Sizzling Sexy, A Village Romance is a page-turning summer read. A Village Romance is the second book in The Little Perran Romance series by Lynda Renham writing as Amy Perfect. 

The Review: There was a time when I ignored book series, dismissing them straight away as reads I wouldn’t have the time to follow through on, but this year things have changed and I’ve found myself embracing and really enjoying them.

And there was a lot to enjoy about A Village Romance, the second book in the Little Perran Romance series by Lynda Renham writing as Amy Perfect. The start of the book, with two characters I really liked, Billy Baxter,the aging rock star who doesn’t realise his star has faded somewhat. Billy is about as inappropriate as you can get (in a light way, the book doesn’t go over the top with him) and I was happy out. The other was an author, Ash, or if we’re to be correct about it, Ashley Wilmot-Fox, a prestigious young author who’s suffering emotionally as well as physically after an accident. I loved Ash, and felt very much for him and the situation he was in.

Now in the book there were  more characters, Millie, who I loved, so simple and down to earth, and then others who I didn’t warm to so much, in fact I’d go as far as to say that the town had its fair share of people who were, well, to put it in the words of one of the characters “People get too worked up about things in this village.” And that said it all. I felt that a lot of the little mix ups that inevitably happen along the way in a book to create some comedy  were over reacted to and in terms of a book, that means either the events weren’t big enough to warrant a reaction, or the people were over the top. This was unfortunate as it was a very enjoyable, quick read, with so many other pluses to it, namely the three characters I mentioned and the lovely homely descriptions of beautiful scenic settings. In my limited experience (as I’ve said I only started reading series this year), this is my first that wasn’t chick lit and so maybe I couldn’t put it together and warm to it as much as usual, this had a touch of comedy in it but was more windswept romance of the ‘swoon’ type, which will appeal to those of you who like those take her in your arms type book, with some hot scenes thrown in, though more takes place towards the end of the book than at the start which is more concerned with showing us village life in Little Perran. Personally I would read this as part of the series as opposed to a standalone, the first being ‘A Christmas Romance,’ as I think it would serve to let you get to know the characters better.

The book ended on an excellent cliff hanger, and I look forward to the next installment, A Summer Romance, out the 1st July. Thanks to the author for the book in return for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Check out my previous interview with Lynda Renham and some reviews, including ‘Rory’s Proposal‘ a romantic comedy I really warmed to, and  Perfect Weddings which I also enjoyed!

The Author Online:

thumbnail_pKTCLgh8_400x400LyndaRenham

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