Book Review: The Art of Hiding by Amanda Prowse

Nina McCarrick lives the perfect life, until her husband, Finn, is killed in a car accident and everything Nina thought she could rely on unravels.

Alone, bereft and faced with a mountain of debt, Nina quickly loses her life of luxury and she begins to question whether she ever really knew the man she married. Forced to move out of her family home, Nina returns to the rundown Southampton council estate—and the sister—she thought she had left far behind.

But Nina can’t let herself be overwhelmed—her boys need her. To save them, and herself, she will have to do what her husband discouraged for so long: pursue a career of her own. Torn between the life she thought she knew and the reality she now faces, Nina finally must learn what it means to take control of her life.

Bestselling author Amanda Prowse once again plumbs the depths of human experience in this stirring and empowering tale of one woman’s loss and love.

Received from the Lake Union Publishing via Netgalley.  This is the first book of Prowse’s that I’ve read, but it seems that there she has written others, such as My Husband’s Wife.

Anyway, in The Art of Hiding, Nina is watching her son Connor playing rugby for the prestigious Rugby Team at his expensive, private school. Both she and her two sons are waiting for her husband Finn to turn up to the game, but as usual it seems he is running late. Whilst his job pays for the big house and for both boys to go to their expensive school, Nina is disappointed that once again, Finn has not turned up to something he committed to do with his family.   Nina finds out that Finn hasn’t turned up because he has been killed in a car crash, driving too fast in the opposite direction he should have been going in to get to the match. It is then that everything begins to unravel.

The nice upper-middle class lifestyle that Nina has settled into was all a lie (one that she told herself, and that Finn fed her). The big house, with the pool, the nice food, the private school for both the boys – is no more. Finn has mortgaged the house to the hilt, but died with the business being £8 million in debt and bankrupt. The “yummy mummies” from the school soon desert her when they find she has no money, and are not willing to even put them up in the garage, never mind loan them any money.  The bailiffs are at the door (in perhaps the only  slightly unbelievable plot point, but used for a reason).

So left with 2 children, no house, no friends, virtually no money and no work experience, Nina is left with the only option of returning to the run down estate in her home town where a relative has her old house available to rent. There she returns with Connor and Declan, who are culture shocked about the people on the estate and in their new school. It is for Nina to try and get a job, only to find that she is fit for little – but it is a chance encounter that allows her to start getting income and some self confidence back. She also reconnects with her sister Tiggy, who tells her some home truths about how she treated both herself and those around her during the social isolation and perfect life wanted by Finn (Including the fact that it is only Tiggy and none of her other “posh” friends who have stuck around when Nina needed help).

There are a mix of emotions that have to be dealt with, including grief, disappointment, shock, having to deal with the feelings of her sons who are going through similar feelings, and having to not give up, even when she wants to, because of two boys.

The secondary characters are relatively well developed – Connor as the teenager is suitably bratty at his change in circumstances and Declan (being younger) is a little more adaptable. Tiggy isn’t always around, but shows Nina that she *used* to be able to do this stuff until she married Finn and she left herself give in. The tertiary characters, such as Vera from the launderette across the road, are barely sketched but that’s ok.

Overall this book shows that you can be happy, no matter the circumstances if you are true to yourself, and that money isn’t always everything. It was well written and not my usual fare, though I may well read another book by this author in the future.


About this author

Amanda Prowse was a management consultant for ten years before realising that she was born to write. Amanda lives in the West Country with her husband and their two teenage sons.


Book Review: The Devil in Beauty by Heidi Ashworth

“Stab the body and it heals, but injure the heart and the wound lasts a lifetime.”

Julian “Trev” Silvester, the Marquis of Trevelin, once had everything a gentleman could want–fortune, good looks, and enough charm to seduce the beautiful young ladies of the ton.But after a duel with a jealous duke leaves him disfigured, Trev is ostracized by those who once celebrated him. Though his life is irrevocably changed, Trev is still loyal to his friends. When Willy Gilbert is accused of murder and Lady Vawdrey’s diamond necklace is stolen, he jumps at the chance to help them.

As the two cases merge, however, Trev finds an unlikely ally in Miss Desdemona Woodmansey. She’s the only young lady who doesn’t seem put off by his scar and the scandal of the duel. But as their investigation into the murder reveals just how treacherous the mask of polite society can be, both Trev and Desdemona are placed in grave danger. Trev has already lived through the disgrace of a scandal, but can he survive a murderer who will do anything to protect a sinister secret? 

From the publishers, via Netgalley.

I’m finally getting into some more challenging books, after a long time away, and this is certainly more challenging than many of my recent reads! The Devil In Beauty is a mystery set in London in 1811. Lord Trevelin (Trev) is disfigured and in social disgrace following a duel the previous year over a married woman. We get flashbacks regarding the time immediately surrounding the duel, and how Trev became disfigured and his expulsion from polite society. At the beginning of the book, his friend Willy Gilbert (disabled after a riding accident), has been carted off to Newgate Prison on the assumption that he has killed his younger brother Johnny.  Trev is tasked to find out the truth about the murder and get Willy out of prison, by the very people who have shunned him previously, and still shun him.

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Book Review: The Last Hours by Minette Walters

The Last Hours by Minette Walters

For most, the Black Death is the end. For a brave few, it heralds a new beginning. 

When the Black Death enters England through the port of Melcombe in Dorseteshire in June 1348, no one knows what manner of sickness it is or how it spreads and kills so quickly. The Church cites God as the cause, and religious fear grips the people as they come to believe that the plague is a punishment for wickedness.

But Lady Anne of Develish has her own ideas. Educated by nuns, Anne is a rarity among women, being both literate and knowledgeable. With her brutal husband absent from Develish when news of this pestilence reaches her, she takes the decision to look for more sensible ways to protect her people than daily confessions of sin. Well-versed in the importance of isolating the sick from the well, she withdraws her people inside the moat that surrounds her manor house and refuses entry even to her husband.

She makes an enemy of her daughter and her husband’s steward by doing so, but her resolve is strengthened by the support of her leading serfs … until food stocks run low and the nerves of all are tested by continued confinement and ignorance of what is happening in the world outside. The people of Develish are alive. But for how long? And what will they discover when the time comes for them to cross the moat? 

From Atlantic Books via Netgalley.

It’s 1348 and news comes through Dorset that there is a sickness that has started in the small port of Melcombe and is spreading like wildfire. Since people become sick and turn black with seeping blood as they die, the sickness is nicknamed “The Black Death”.

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Book Review: A Christmas Flower by Bryan Mooney

Miracles are like snowflakes—no two are alike, but each one is precious and beautiful. This Christmas, Dr. Beth Harding could use a few miracles. The hospital she runs in River Dale, New Hampshire, is being shut down, unless she can convince the Scrooge-like board to save it. At least her closest friend, firefighter Logan Mitchell, is home for the holidays to offer a broad shoulder to lean on.

In California, Logan is a smoke jumper, but jumping into a romance with his best friend scares him more than any forest fire. After losing his parents at sixteen, Logan was taken in by Beth’s family. As kids, they were like brother and sister. Now they’re grown up, and sparks keep flying between them. If only Beth wasn’t already engaged. Maybe with a Christmas miracle or two, Beth can keep those hospital doors open—and two dear friends can finally allow their one true love to blossom.

From Lake Union Publishing via Netgalley. Some Spoilers below.

On some level, Logan has always been in love with Beth, but it’s only since her mother died earlier in the year that he’s begun to realise his true feelings. He works out as a fire jumper in California and it gives him the best thrill in his life. When he hears that his old boss has been injured in a blaze, and with the California fire season over, he returns home to check on things. With budget cuts, the local fire brigade is short on staff, so Logan is persuaded to take on some cover. The budget cuts also mean that the accountants plan to close the hospital that Beth’s mother set up – and to do it by New Year.

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Book Review: Texas Christmas by Holly Castillo

Gabriella Torres loves returning home to San Antonio for the holidays–the decorations, the magic and her large family. As icing on the cake, she will serve as midwife for one of her cousins. Her Christmas visit also provides a temporary distraction from a looming obligation.

Luke Davenport has traveled across the world to accept the role as town doctor in San Antonio. But when he arrives to domestic chaos, the sheriff offers his hospitality and Luke can’t turn down the offer. While he’s embraced by all, Luke tries to keep his distance. His past remains a threat and the alluring Gabby Torres makes him dream of a brighter but impossible future.

When Gabby learns that Luke has never truly experienced Christmas, she sets out on a mission…to make this Christmas the best that Luke could ever have. As they spend intimate moments together, Luke begins to lose his heart to the woman who is showing him what life as part of a family could be like. When the ghosts of their pasts rise up to haunt them, will Christmas magic and love be strong enough to guarantee the happiness they’ve always dreamed of?

From Tule Publishing via Netgalley.

I didn’t know that this was number 4 in the series, but I thought it stood on it’s own pretty well. The secondary characters are pretty well rounded, and there’s no unnecessary exposition as to why they behave a particular way – invariably they just do what they need to do.

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Book Review: Miss Seeton Quilts the Village by Hamilton Crane

The new Miss Seeton mystery – the first in almost 20 years!

It’s practically a Royal Marriage. The highly eligible son of Miss Seeton’s old friends Sir George and Lady Colveden has wed the daughter of a French count.

Miss Seeton lends her talents to the village scheme to create a quilted ‘Bayeux Tapestry’ of local history, inspired by the wedding. But her intuitive sketches reveal a startlingly different perspective—involving buried Nazi secrets, and links to the mysterious death of a diplomat and to a South American dictator . . .

Serene amidst every kind of skulduggery, this eccentric English spinster steps in where Scotland Yard stumbles, armed with nothing more than her sketchpad and umbrella!

From Netgalley in exchange for a review.

Now I will admit that, despite this being the 22nd book in the series, I had never heard of Miss Seeton, never mind reading any of the books. Which is possibly because it’s a parody of, rather than challenger for Miss Marple. A golden age cozy mystery this isn’t!  Set sometime in the 1970s (long after suicide and Homosexuality were decriminalised) Miss Seeton is a retired art teacher, riding round her village of Plummergen on her push bike.   The other residents of Plummergen are used to Miss Seeton getting into untold “adventures” and are prone to overhearing half conversations and making up whole new stories….such as Miss Seeton wanting a new belt for her inherited sewing machine, and a whole story being fabricated over her taking part in kinky sex parties with the much younger Dan Eggleden from the Smithy (where she had gone for a replacement leather strap).    Later, seeing the police in the churchyard with a metal detector (looking for tunic buttons) only lead to gossip about body snatching and calls for the dead to be left to rest in peace.

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Book Review: Merry and Bright by Debbie Macomber



Merry Smith is pretty busy these days. She’s taking care of her family, baking cookies, decorating for the holidays, and hoping to stay out of the crosshairs of her stressed and by-the-book boss at the consulting firm where she temps. Her own social life is the last thing she has in mind, much less a man. Without her knowledge, Merry’s well-meaning mom and brother create an online dating profile for her—minus her photo—and the matches start rolling in. Initially, Merry is incredulous, but she reluctantly decides to give it a whirl.

Soon Merry finds herself chatting with a charming stranger, a man with similar interests and an unmistakably kind soul. Their online exchanges become the brightest part of her day. But meeting face-to-face is altogether different, and her special friend is the last person Merry expects—or desires. Still, sometimes hearts can see what our eyes cannot. In this satisfying seasonal tale, unanticipated love is only a click away.

Ebook from Netgalley in exchange for a review.

It’s been a while since I’ve read a Debbie Macomber (and the day after I finished this one, I got the offer of another one from a friend in London! yay!).

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