Saturday, 30 May 2020

Review: Island of Secrets by Rachel Rhys

I was attracted to this book due to the gorgeous cover and because I love historical fiction and exotic locations.

It's 1957 and Iris Bailey is working in a typing pool in dreary old England but dreams of being an artist. To earn extra money she has been drawing the portraits of the rich and famous at Society parties. At one of these parties she meets Nell, the daughter of a famous Hollywood director, who hires Iris to draw the guests at her father's wedding in Havana. It is a fabulous opportunity but once Iris arrives she realises she is hopelessly out of her depth. Even with her lack of sophistication she can see the stark contrast between rich and poor. Cuba is on the brink of revolution...

I really enjoyed Island of Secrets. The glamorous setting of 50s Havana is beautifully realised and seamlessly woven into the story is an intriguing mystery. Nell's movie-star step-mother died in unusual circumstances and Iris soon realises any one of the wedding guests could be a murderer.

One thing I particularly loved about this story is that everyone has some kind of a secret and none of the guests are quite who they seem. There is Nell's eccentric blended family and her father's dangerous mob contacts, along with Iris's new friends Eugene and Joe - a reporter and photographer who have been sent by Life magazine to cover the celebrations. Thanks to the clever little twists I didn't guess the identity of the murderer either, so this was pretty much the perfect book for me.  

I'd recommend Island of Secrets to anyone who loves historical fiction with a bit of a mystery and a dash of romance. I enjoyed it so much I've now bought the author's previous book, A Fatal Inheritance.

Thank you to Rachel Rhys and Black Swan (Random House UK/Transworld) for my copy of this book, which I requested from NetGalley and reviewed voluntarily.

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Tuesday, 26 May 2020

Review: Beach Read by Emily Henry

One of my all-time favourite genres is romantic comedy. Combine that with the gorgeous, eye-catching cover of this book and I could not wait to read it.

Beach Read is the story of two authors suffering from writers' block. January writes romance but no longer believes in happy endings; Gus writes literary fiction but has found himself in a rut. They end up in neighbouring beach houses over the summer, each with a deadline fast approaching. A flippant joke that maybe they should write their books in each other's genres spirals into reality. January takes Gus to the places she uses as settings for her stories, including a country and western bar for a line-dancing adventure, and Gus takes January on one of his research trips - to the burnt-out campus of a cult...

Without giving too much away, Beach Read is an old-school romantic comedy in the style of those classic movies, While You Were Sleeping and You've Got Mail (Bridget Jones also gets a mention), with an affectionate nod to much-loved romance tropes.

It's chock full of romance and humour, and absolutely perfect for someone like me, who has read all the romcoms, knows all the tropes, and is the kind of smarty-pants who always assumes they can guess what is coming next. I adored the characters (particularly Gus) and the gorgeous lakeside setting makes it the perfect beach read. (See what I did there?)

Basically, I LOVED Beach Read and I'd recommend it to anyone who loves good old-fashioned romantic comedy with a sparkling fresh twist.

Thank you to Emily Henry and Penguin Books (UK) for my copy of this book, which I requested from NetGalley and reviewed voluntarily.

Saturday, 23 May 2020

Review: Just My Luck by Adele Parks

I was attracted to this book by the gorgeous cover and the intriguing story. Who hasn't wondered what they would do if they suddenly came into a lot of money?

Once a week for fifteen years three couples have been meeting up and playing the same lottery numbers. One night they have an argument about whether to continue and the following day six very familiar numbers come up. Lexi and Jake suddenly find themselves in possession of a winning lottery ticket...

Just My Luck is a clever domestic thriller/family drama. Three families, six supposed best friends, and the cracks that appear when one couple wins seventeen million pounds. As the story progresses we learn that each person has a secret, some characters are not quite as nice as they appear, and others will do anything to be in with a share of a fortune. There are little twists all the way through, but be prepared for a couple of massive ones that I certainly didn't see coming! 

Just My Luck shows how easy it is for someone's almost-perfect life to unravel when they come into a lot of money, despite their best intentions. We wouldn't make any of these mistakes, would we? Even Lexi, who is at first determined to keep everything 'normal' finds herself coerced into throwing a celebratory party that just gets bigger and bigger until it's completely out of control.

I loved Just My Luck (such a clever title!). It's the perfect summer read and would appeal to fans of authors such as Lianne Moriarty and Lisa Jewell.

Thank you to Adele Parks and HQ for my copy of this book, which I requested from NetGalley and reviewed voluntarily.

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Review: The Last Protector (James Marwood and Cat Lovett #4) by Andrew Taylor

The Last Protector is the fourth book in the James Marwood and Cat Lovett series. It is set in the 17th century, just after the Restoration of King Charles II. The main protagonists are James Marwood (a government agent) and Cat Lovett (the much younger wife of an elderly architect). Both characters have fathers who are considered traitors to the Crown, so they have to tread carefully. Although they are good friends, rather than work together to solves crimes (as I expected) they usually become involved in the same mystery from different ends.

In this story James has been instructed to spy on the Duke of Buckingham, a wealthy, influential and supposed friend of the King - but just as likely to betray him! Cat, meanwhile, has been contacted by a childhood friend - the daughter of Richard Cromwell, the last Lord Protector of the British Isles. The Cromwell family is down on their luck but Richard believes his mother left something of substantial value hidden in her former lodgings at the Palace of Whitehall. Can Cat's husband help them find it?

I do love a good treasure hunt and it was this, combined with the amount of atmospheric historical detail, that really made this story for me. Cat is my favourite character because she is so proactive, although I loved the scene where the more cautious James inadvertently ends up hiding in a brothel! 

The Last Protector would suit anyone who loves a cracking good historical mystery and I can't wait to read the next one in the series!

Thank you to Andrew Taylor and HarperCollins for my copy of this book, which I requested from NetGalley and reviewed voluntarily.

Thursday, 7 May 2020

Review: The Glass House by Eve Chase

Eve Chase is one of my favourite authors. I love her dual timeline stories about old houses, and dysfunctional families with dark secrets in their past. I love her books so much it would be hard to choose a favourite. Like a box of quality chocolates, each is equally delicious!

The Glass House is about Rita, who is nicknamed 'Big Rita' on account of her height. She takes on the job of nanny with the glamorous and wealthy Harrington family but soon things go terribly wrong. Jeannie Harrington loses her baby and suffers a breakdown. Her husband sends her and the children to their country house (the remote Foxcote Manor, hidden away in the Forest of Dean) to recover. Rita is given strict instructions to watch over Jeannie and report back to him. As Jeannie goes into a further decline, her daughter finds a baby in the woods and brings her home...

The Glass House (the title refers to Rita's antique terrarium) is a beautifully written, very atmospheric gothic suspense. It's a slow burn, but all the better to appreciate each layer of the mystery unfold. There are two timelines: the early 1970s and the present day. As well as the family secrets, there is a murder mystery too. The ultimate ending was not hard to work out but there are lots of little twists along the way, most of which took me by surprise! I even got the identity of the murderer wrong! I loved the sweet, touching romance between Rita and Robbie, and found myself still thinking about this story several days after I'd finished the book.

The Glass House is one of my favourite reads this year. It would suit readers who love stories about spooky old houses, with characters who have deep, dark secrets, and anyone who is a fan of authors such as Lulu Taylor, Kate Morton and Daphne du Maurier. Thoroughly recommended!

Thank you to Eve Chase and Michael Joseph/Penguin UK for my copy of this book, which I requested from NetGalley and reviewed voluntarily.

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