Book Review

Book Review : Just Like Heaven by Julia Quinn.

Honoria Smythe-Smith, the youngest daughter of the eldest son of the Earl of Winstead, plays the violin in the annual musicale performed by the Smythe-Smith quartet. She’s well aware that they are dreadful. In fact, she freely admits (to her cousins) that she is probably the worst of the bunch. But she’s the sort who figures that nothing good will come of being mortified, so she puts on a good show and laughs about it.

Marcus Holroyd is the best friend of Honoria’s brother Daniel, who lives in exile out of the country. He’s promised to watch out for Honoria and takes his responsibility very seriously. But he has his work cut out for him when Honoria sets off for Cambridge determined to marry by the end of the season. She’s got her eye on the only unmarried Bridgerton, who’s a bit wet behind the ears. When her advances are spurned, can Marcus swoop in and steal her heart in time for the musicale?

Having only ventured into the world of historical fiction recently I was really interested to read this book and see whether I got on as well with it.

The book is a light and frothy read, I read it with a huge smile on my face. The plot follows Honoria Smythe-Smith (even the name made me smile) as she is preparing to play in the annual musicale put on by members of her family and at the same time looking for a husband. Her disgraced and exiled brother has left his best friend Marcus to keep an eye on her, he’s trying his hardest to make sure she doesn’t fall for a wrong ‘un.

It’s clear to the reader from a very early stage that they should be together, it’s great fun reading to see whether they realise it too or not. Along the way there are plenty of funny moments, I read the book in public and got a few odd looks when I kept laughing out loud! In a break from the laughs there is one medical scene that didn’t bother me, but I can think of a few friends who are more squeamish than I am and would probably have to flick through the pages quickly.

I found Honoria easy to like, she is sweet and has a very endearing sensibility to her. Within a few pages of meeting the adult Marcus (we first meet him as a child) I’d fallen for him completely, my liking of him only grew throughout the book. Honoria’s cousins who also play in the Smythe-Smith quartet are fabulous characters, I loved the scenes between them – they provided a lot of the laughs. I also loved Lady Danbury who doesn’t appear until later in the book but is a character I could read a lot more of.

I must mention one slight issue that I had with the book, there is a romantic scene towards the end that I didn’t feel entirely comfortable with. It is written very well but for the time period it jarred a little for me.

I loved this book, it was such a fun and enjoyable read. I was thrilled to discover it is the first in a series about the Smythe-Smith Quartert, I can’t wait for the next book!

Just Like Heaven is published in paperback by Piatkus in the UK priced £7.99. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book all of the opinions expressed are my own.

Book Review

Book Review : The Search by Nora Roberts.

It’s been a few years since Fiona Bristow has moved to Orcas Island. Within the small, tight-knit island community she’s built up her business, a canine rescue centre that trains dogs to track missing persons. Whether they are lonely travellers on a hiking trip gone wrong or disappearances of a more sinister nature, more than once Fiona has been the last hope for those lost in Washington’s vast wilderness.

Other than her work, Fiona doesn’t ask for much: the peace of the landscape, the companionship of her dogs, the safe haven of friends and family. Romantic entanglements are very far down on her list – and certainly not with Simon Doyle, an artist newly arrived from the mainland. Impossible rude, and impossibly handsome, he suddenly seems to be around an awful lot. But he doesn’t know that Fiona harbours a terrible secret, and as her past unexpectedly catches up with her, she has to decide whether past grief will keep her from ever loving again …

I love Nora Roberts’ books so I was really excited when this one arrived in the post. I love the cover with the moody purple clouds and stark beach scene, it made me think I was in for a thrilling read.

My predictions played out, the story is tense and sucked me in within the first few chapters. The book focuses on Fiona, a woman who managed to escape and help to catch a serial killer years ago though her policeman partner and his K9 dog were killed. She has rebuilt her life in a small island community and runs a K9 search and rescue team, the book opens with one of their rescues. A new man on the island, Simon, looks like a potential love interest but the news that there appears to be a copycat killer who may be pursuing Fiona means that nothing is certain.

I really took to the character of Fiona, she is understandably damaged as a result of her past, but is trying her hardest to make a good life for herself. The way she relates to others seems very fitting, particularly in her struggle to work out how to deal with Simon. I liked Simon though whilst I appreciated the way he stood up to Fiona and challenged her I often found the way he went about it to be a little too direct and brusque for my liking. The supporting characters were all well written, by the end of the book I felt like I wanted to move to Orcas Island and become part of the community! I must also mention the dogs, Jaws, Peck, Newman and Bogart. They were such wonderful characters, I enjoyed reading about them very much.

I found the blend of thriller and romance to be very well balanced, Roberts is very good at writing this kind of book. It never felt like one half of the plot was threatening to overwhelm the other, and I cared equally about both of them. Robert’s narrative writing is great, I love the way she describes things. As I’ve already said though I didn’t completely like the way she wrote Simon, particularly his dialogue.

I really enjoyed reading this book and will continue to look forward to reading more by Nora Roberts.

The Search is published in paperback by Piatkus in the UK priced £6.99. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book all of the opinions expressed are my own.

Book Review

Book Review : Pacific by Judy Nunn.

Young Australian actress Samantha Lindsay, fresh from her success on the London stage, is thrilled when she lands the lead role in the latest Hollywood war epic to be filmed in the dramatic South Pacific islands of Vanuatu. It’s the role of a lifetime.

In another era, Jane Thackeray travels from her home in England to the far distant islands of the New Hebrides with her husband, a Presbyterian missionary. Ensnared in the turmoil of war in the South Pacific, Jane witnesses the devastating effect human conflict has upon an innocent race of people, and her life becomes entwined in a maelstrom of love, hate, sacrifice and revenge.

On location in Vanuatu, Samantha plays a character based on the life of ‘Mamma Tack’, a World War II heroine who was invaluable to both the US forces and the New Hebredian natives. Uncanny parallels between history and fiction emerge and Sam begins a quest for the truth.

When this book arrived I was very excited to see that it was written by Judy Nunn. I grew up watching both Neighbours and Home and Away and Judy Nunn’s portrayal of Ailsa Stewart in the latter makes her feel like part of the furniture of my tv youth. I didn’t know before receiving this book that she was also an author so I couldn’t wait to get reading.

I did find it a little hard to get into Pacific. It opens with a prologue that takes place during the Dunkirk evacuation and then with the start of Book One jumps to the present day and shifts its focus to actress Samantha Lindsay. Within a chapter it then jumps back in her timeline, providing some background to her story. After shifting back into the present day for Samantha the reader is once more transported back to the pre-war years introducing yet more characters including Jane who was to become a key character in the novel. I found all of this jumping around in two different timelines quite difficult to get on with, the moves weren’t seamless and I felt that just as I started to settle into the book it changed again.

Thankfully when Book Two starts (in addition to a prologue and epilogue the novel is divided into three books) everything starts to settle down. The pre-war and war time plots turn out to be part of the same story focussing on Jane’s story set in the New Hebrides and Samantha’s story remains in the present day. Both plots then move along well, though at times the move between plots feels quite annoying – I found particularly with Jane’s story I wanted to keep reading about it and then I was pulled back to Sam’s story. I became glad as the book progressed and more time was spent on Jane’s story than Sam’s.

As the blurb suggests the parallels between Jane’s story and the film Sam is starring in mean that the two plots do end up being tied together to a certain extent by the end of the book. I did spend a lot of time wishing that Nunn had chosen to tell Jane’s story only, for a long time it didn’t feel that Sam’s story added anything to the book. By the end I could understand why Sam’s story was there, it was used well by Nunn. I still feel however that I would have preferred it if the book had been solely about Jane and her life in the New Hebrides – this was a far more interesting story and could have been expanded to stand alone in my opinion.

I adored the character of Jane, the way she developed over the course of the book from a relatively gentle and mild girl into a strong and confidant woman was wonderful. She’s painted as a clearly loved character and I had no difficulties in believing this of her. The characters she was surrounded by were also brilliant to read, including some delightfully written children. I found myself falling for Wolf Baker, he was certainly a character I’d have loved to read more about.

The characters in Sam’s side of the story were perhaps a little less loveable though this may be just because I didn’t enjoy that part of the book quite so much. I think they were all well created characters, and they were all very believable. I just didn’t take to them quite so much.

Whilst I had some issues with the book, once I got into it I did really enjoy reading it. I would certainly be willing to read more by Judy Nunn because when this book was good it was downright brilliant.

Pacific is published in paperback by Piatkus in the UK from today priced £7.99. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book all of the opinions expressed are my own.

Book Review

Book Review : More Than A Mistress by Mary Balogh.

When Jane Ingleby interrupts a duel in London’s Hyde Park, Jocelyn Dudley, Duke of Tresham, gets shot, and Jane, late for work at a milliner’s workshop, loses her job. She is angry enough to demand a new job of Jocelyn, and he is angry enough to hire her – as his nurse. Her blue eyes are the sort a man could drown in – if it wasn’t for her imprudence. She questions his every move, breaches his secrets and touches his soul and soon the dangerous duke is offering her a different job – as his mistress.

Jane tries to keep it strictly business, an arrangement she is forced to accept in order to conceal a treacherous secret. Surely there is nothing more perilous than being the lover of such a man. Yet as she sees through his devilish facade and glimpses the noble heart within, she knows the greatest jeopardy of all is the rising passion that could tempt her to risk everything…

Whilst I have read women’s fiction for years now I have read very little historical fiction, it’s never been an area that I’ve been particularly interested in. The synopsis of More Than A Mistress grabbed my attention however and I was curious to give it a go.

The plot worked really well for me. Whilst it is essentially innocent girl meets attractive rogue and they fall in love despite their best efforts there is much more to it. Jane’s hiding quite a secret, as I started to discover it I found myself getting increasingly caught up in the plot and fearing that the happy ending I was hoping the couple would have might not happen after all.

I liked the character of Jane a lot. I liked the way that she stood up to Tresham, their sparring really entertained me. Tresham was also a very likeable character, it was clear from an early stage that there was more to him than the standoffish arrogant rake he was claiming to be. The minor characters were well created, I particularly enjoyed the scenes between Tresham and his male friends, I could have happily read more of this.

I enjoyed reading this book a lot, though at times I did find the prose to be a little fluffy for my liking. It didn’t put me off, and I would certainly read historical romance again based on this book. There is a second book in the series, No Man’s Mistress, I think I shall be adding it to my to read list.

More Than A MIstress is published in paperback by Piatkus in the UK from 7th April 2011 priced £7.99. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book all of the opinions expressed are my own.

Book Review

Book Review : Arcadia Falls by Carol Goodman.

For two hundred years, painters, poets and musicians have come to the Catskill Mountain village of Arcadia Falls to escape the pressures of modern life and pursue their artistic visions, and Arcadia College was founded with a mission to nurture young artists and writers.

When Meg Rosenthal gets an offer to teach at Arcadia College, it seems a godsend – an escape from a life that’s fallen apart. She hopes, too, that Arcadia Falls will be a place where she and her daughter Sally can find some peace and reconciliation.

But even though Arcadia Falls proves to be even more beautiful then Meg imagined, it is hardly peaceful. Soon she begins to realize that the public story behind the school conceals deceit, betrayal, and perhaps even murder. As Meg struggles to reconcile the choices she’s made in her own life, she begins to fear that by coming to Arcadia Falls she’s put herself and her daughter in danger.

I found this book to be a little slow when I first started reading it, but within a few chapters it started to take a hold of me. The more I read the more gripped I got, by the last third I found it hard to tear myself away from it.

The plot centres around Meg, a grieving widow who takes a job at Arcadia Falls because the death of her husband has left her and her daughter Sally finding it hard to make ends meet. It has the added bonus of being a school with a strong artistic heritage, Sally is a talented artist and Meg’s own research interests into folklore and fairy tales seem an ideal match. The day they arrive at the school is First Night, a school celebration based on an ancient fertility rite. When this ritual ends disastrously Meg starts to wonder about the school she has brought her daughter to and starts digging but doesn’t like what she finds.

I really liked Meg. I found her to be an interesting character and really enjoyed the parts of the story where she was teaching – it felt at times like I was sitting there in the classroom along with her pupils and I found myself thinking about my own answers to the questions she was posing. I found Sally, her daughter, harder to like but I feel she was really well written. The sense of turmoil following the loss of her father and the move from everything familiar she was experiencing really came through.

The book has plenty of twists and turns as it progresses. The last few chapters twist back and forward so much that I found myself reading slower to make sure everything was sinking in. I liked this particularly as just when I thought the author couldn’t trick me again another twist unfolded on the page.

I enjoyed this book and I imagine I’ll read more by the author in the future.

Arcadia Falls is published in paperback by Piatkus in the UK from today priced £7.99. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book all of the opinions expressed are my own.