Book Review: Meet Me At Willoughby Close by Kate Hewitt

Welcome to Willoughby Close… a charming cluster of cozy cottages, each with a story to tell and a happy ending to deliver…

Ellie Matthews has come to Wychwood-on-Lea to find a new start for her and her daughter Abby. But, life there doesn’t start out as idyllic as she had hoped. While Ellie loves her cute cottage in Willoughby Close, the Yummy Mummies at the primary school seem intent on giving her the cold shoulder, Abby has trouble fitting in, and her boss, Oliver Venables, is both surprisingly sexy and irritatingly inscrutable.

But miracles can happen in the most unexpected places, and in small, yet wonderful ways. Slowly, Ellie and Abby find themselves making friends and experiencing the everyday magic of Willoughby Close. When Oliver’s nephew, Tobias, befriends Abby, the four of them start to feel like family… and Ellie begins to see the kindness and warmth beneath Oliver’s chilly exterior, which awakens both her longing and fear.

Ellie knows all about disappointment, and the pain of trying too hard for nothing, while Oliver has his own hurts and secrets to deal with. When the past comes rollicking back to remind both of them of their weaknesses and failings, will they be able to overcome their fears and find their own happy ending?

Picked up from Netgalley and read over the New Year – it’s only now, in checking reviews that I’ve realised that I haven’t written one for this book!

I’ve previously read A Cotswold Christmas from the same author, and whilst I considered that one a little short and light, this was a better book (possibly because it was longer and therefore room for more character development).

Anyway, Ellie has moved to Willoughby Close with her daughter Abby to get away from a painful past and try and move on.  Abby has previously been bullied at school, and unfortunately it seems it might be happening again at her new school. It doesn’t help that her apparent nemesis (Mallory) – and her mother (Harriet) – move in to the house next door.

Following a shaky start – both of them had different expectations from her working in the university typing pool – Ellie and her boss Oliver start dating. Abby, who swings between being the child and the adult in her relationship with her mother, becomes friends with Oliver’s nephew Tobias.

There’s an interesting take on “blended families”, where  Ellie and Oliver need to navigate Ellie’s relationship with Tobias’ mother, who has sunk into an alcoholic fugue following her husband’s suicide.

Against all odds, Abby also makes friends with Lady Dorothy, who is the old woman who lives in “the big house” – Ellie feels she always started off on the wrong foot with Lady Dorothy, ever since the dog ruined the croquet lawn.

The usual events for a romance happen along the way, and there are the usual bumps in the road – Nathan (Ellie’s ex) turns up unexpected, and Oliver invites Ellie home to meet his parents, having avoided telling her he comes from minor aristocracy and that his parents are horrendous people.

Ultimately, nearly everything gets resolved satisfactorily, but there is room for a future book on Harriet and Mallory, and perhaphs one about Nathan. As I mentioned before, it was a more rounded book than the previous one, so I’m glad I took another chance on this series.

 

Book Review: Romancing the Rogue by Erica Ridley

When the new earl inherits, poor relation Miss Rebecca Bond must wed immediately or be out on her ear. The only man she’s ever loved is summoned to hear the will—but he already rejected her so soundly that they haven’t spoken in years. Yet who better than a rakish Viscount to teach her how to snare a gentleman who appreciates her charms?

Daniel Goodenham, Lord North Barrows, regrets nothing more than the lost friendship with the one woman who treated him like a man, not a title. Fate has given him the perfect pretext to win her forgiveness—even if it means having to matchmake her to someone else. But now that she’s back in his life, he’ll do anything to convince her to choose him instead…

This story was first featured in the Vexed anthology.

I’ve read several of Ridley’s books before so I am pre-approved on Netgalley for many of her books on the site.  This is a relatively short book, with a very limited cast of characters.

Rebecca had a dubious first season, having been shamefull rejected in public by the older (he was 17) Daniel Goodenham who had just inherited his title after the death of his father. She has spent the last five years living in the shadows of Castle Keyvor, but with the death of Lord Banfield everything is now in jeopardy.  The new earl becomes aware of her existance and gives  her an ultimatum: with 5 girls of his own he has no extra time or money to support a sixth: she has mere months to find a husband, or he will choose a husband for her. Her parents long gone, her wardrobe significantly out of date, the chance of a small dowry, and out of practise in flirting etc., she feels she has little chance of finding a suitable husband in time.

She realises that Daniel would be coming up for the reading of the will and that she would make use of his reputation as a rake – without realising that it’s all made up in the press.

Disgusted by his birthday party, where he knows virtually noone but all the young women are flirting for his attention, Daniel comes up to the castle early. I’m not entirely sure how he’s certain that’s where she’ll be – in the need to find Rebecca’s forgiveness. He gets about a week with her before the others arrive for the reading of the will and it doesnt always go well. He finds her infinately more intelligent and talented than he ever hoped, she finds him not the rake that the press had made him out to be.

We dont get to meet the other guests, and certainly dont sit in on the reading of the will – we only get to hear the results, which surprises at least one of the couple. This is a good choice as it doesn’t clutter the story up with 1 dimensional characters who add nothing to the story. The only character that confuses me slightly is the reaction of Mary the maid who seems to have no problem in taking orders from Rebecca, despite (apparently) Rebecca’s non-visibilty around the castle for the last 5 years.

Anyway, a shortish story, that seems pretty standalone, and not requiring an investment in a series of 8 books to find out what happens to everyone involved (as seems the fashion nowadays).

Book Review: The Doctor Wears a Stetson by Anne Marie Novark

 

the-doctor-wears-a-stetsonJessie Kincaid was fifteen and innocent when Cameron asked her to the prom. She lost her heart that night, but his plans didn’t change. He left their small town to pursue his dreams.

Seventeen years later, a trip home leads Cameron McCade back to Salt Fork, Texas and the newly widowed Jessie Devine. Since his return, the fire between them burns as hot as ever. Can they take up where they left off? Can Jessie risk her heart again?

Ebook free from Amazon. I started reading this in the effort to clear some space from my ebook, and if I’m honest – it’s not engaging and the story line is barely remembered just a week after finishing.

Jessie was in love with Cameron well before he asked her to go to prom (after Cameron and his girlfriend split up mere days before the dance). Not long afterwards, Cameron goes to the city to become a doctor, and has come home for his mother’s birthday, having been offered a lucrative job – all he has to do is accept.

Jessie is newly widowed – he husband had been seriously sick – and with the medical bills etc, the garage she inherited from her father is on the verge of bankruptcy. She has drilling rights to the McCade ranch and had vowed to her now dead husband never to sell them back to the McCades – there was some long running feud I long stopped caring to find out about, that meant the rights werent to be sold back out of spite.

Cameron comes back, Jessie has low confidence and is spiralling out of control financially, blah blah hlah.

Sorry, just a completely forgettable story

Book Review: Death on the Cherwell by Mavis Doriel Hay

 

Death on the Cherwell Book ReviewFor Miss Cordell, principal of Persephone College, there are two great evils in the world: unladylike behavior among her students and bad publicity for the college. So her prim and cosy world is turned upside down when a secret society of undergraduates meets by the river on a gloomy January afternoon, only to find the drowned body of the college bursar floating in her canoe.

The police assume that a student prank got out of hand, but the resourceful Persephone girls suspect foul play, and take the investigation into their own hands. Soon they uncover the tangled secrets that led to the bursar’s death – and the clues that point to a fellow student.

Received from Poisoned Pen Press, via Netgalley, in exchange for a review.

I’ve been in two minds as to whether to write a review right now about this book, but decided to give it a go. I read this in late 2016, at a time that I became a touch apathetic around reading in general, and this might well have soured enjoyment of any book I read during this time.

This should be exactly my type of book – set in a woman only college, with plucky gels suspecting foul play; their best men friends/brothers being pulled into the investigation (despite them being asked to do unspeakably bad things – like ask their friends questions!; a random Yugoslavian student who may be mad enough to kill; and several older, gentlemanly policemen who have to put up with women going where they shouldn’t.

In reading other reviews of this book to get some inspiration, it seems that other people are able to articulate my general mood – one calls it a “curate’s egg” (i.e. “good in parts”), whilst others say that the story “ebbs and flows”. This is generally what I was thinking, where the conversations between the girls for example are good, but there is far too much time spent working out possibilities in terms of alibis, motives and routes taken. The attitudes of some of the characters are quite old fashioned to modern day audiences, but are very much a product of the time the book was written – and should not be a surprise to consumers of Golden Age Crime.

In Summary: I might well read this book again in the future when I’m in a better frame of mind, and should my reaction change, you’ll find out about it!

 

Book Review: Wrong Brother, Right Match (Anyone But You #3) by Jennifer Shirk

Wrong BrotherMatchmaking guru Kennedy Pepperdine’s life is perfect. Perfect job. Perfect friends. Perfect boyfriend. Except…when she gets trapped in an elevator with a handsome stranger, she accidentally confesses a secret: maybe her perfect boyfriend, Justin, isn’t so perfect for her after all. But a matchmaker should be able to successfully match herself, right? Thankfully, she’ll never see the handsome stranger again. Until she heads home with Justin for the holidays and learns that the sexy stranger is none other than Justin’s older brother, Matt.

Matt Ellis is trying to be on his best behavior for his mother—it is Christmas, after all. But when he recognizes the beautiful woman from the elevator—the one he hasn’t been able to stop thinking about for months—his best behavior is being held by a thread. Matt’s always sacrificed for his family, and nothing is more important than their happiness, but the more time he spends around Kennedy, the more he wonders if her supposed “right match” might just be the wrong brother.

Picked up from Netgalley in exchange for a review.

This is the 3rd book in the series, but you wouldnt know it from reading it – I actually dont know who came beforehand in the series.

Anyway, Kennedy is dating Justin – well “dating” isnt the word, it’s more a case of “knowing each other exist”. Kennedy’s dating company is based on some software, through which she found Justin. On paper he is everything she wants and needs, but the reality is proving to be different. It’s clear that he’s putting work before her, and doesn’t know the first thing about her. Pride and the need for stability however is not letting her admit defeat, even when she has the most incredible kiss from another man whilst trapped in an lift whilst in Vegas.

Six months later Kennedy and Justin are engaged, and for once, Justin has agreed to go home to his family’s winery in order to introduce his fiance. It’s clear he still knows little about Kennedy, thinking she prefers cider over chocolate.  They’re barely in the house when Kennedy and Matt realise that they know each other – they kissed each other in Vegas! Centered in work, Justin goes back to New York to complete some work, and doesnt seem to be in a rush to come back home, asking Matt to look after her.

Course, cue spending lots of time together, falling in love, Kennedy coming to terms with the fact she’s made a mistake etc. New investors in her company bring hte launch of the software forward from Feb to the New Year, demanding that Kennedy returns to New York for the presentation – however, this is when Kennedy gets to make an important announcement that could affect everyone around her. Other people also get the chance to realise where they need to make changes, so of course they do!

This is a clean romance, with only one brief kiss between the main characters (to show if nothing else “that nothing went on” and that Matt didnt betray his brother).  There’s plenty of loose threads left untied to allow for a number of other books to be written in the same world. Not sure I’ll be in a rush to track down more of these, but if some turn up on offer, I wouldnt look to turn them down!

About this author

Jennifer Shirk has a bachelor degree in pharmacy-which has in NO WAY at all helped her with her writing career. But she likes to point it out, since it shows romantic-at-hearts come in all shapes, sizes, and mind-numbing educations.

She writes sweet (and sometimes even funny) romances for Avalon Books/Montlake Romance and now Entangled Publishing. Her novel SUNNY DAYS FOR SAM won the 2013 Golden Quill Published Authors Contest for Best Traditional Romance and recently, her novel WEDDING DATE FOR HIRE was a 2016 Golden Leaf finalist for best short contemporary romance.

Lately she’s been on a serious exercise kick. But don’t hold that against her.

Book Review: Lady of the Bridge by Laura Kitchell

lady-of-the-bridge

Saiko, warrior princess under Japan’s first ruling shogun, is tasked with entering the dethroned emperor’s household as a consort. It is her duty. It brings honor to her family. This alliance between the old regime and the new can end rebellious uprisings that keep Japan in upheaval.

Takamori is an elite samurai in service to the first shogun. He is war-weary but loyal in his service under the man who ended the civil wars that threatened to destroy Japan. With no major battles to fight, he faces a peacetime that has all samurai questioning their role and their future.

When Saiko and Takamori meet on a garden bridge, both seeking answers and calm, they stir unexpected desires and create more questions than answers. Each day they meet and each day they fall deeper in love. Duty and honor, however, dictate that Saiko must belong to the emperor, and as her father’s marshal, Takamori must deliver her.

A ronin attack forces them to fight for her life. They race across Japan with armies on the chase and two questions left unanswered. Who organized and directs the ronin army? And how much time do they have together?

In a world where duty is everything, how will she choose between family honor and her heart’s desire?

Received from the publishers via Netgalley. I do have a thing for books set in Asia, and Japan and China in particular, which is what drew me to this story.  It is told from the perspective of Princess Saiko, who is the daughter (and youngest child) of the Shogun.  She has spent several years staying with her brother, and using her time to study martial arts.  She knows that it is her duty to become consort to the dethroned emperor, and also develops the more “womanly” virtues, of poetry, literature, painting and calligraphy.

Takamori has come back from extended fighting, having built up a fearsome reputation as an excellent fighter and leader of troops. Since the fighting has been essentially suppressed (ronin not withstanding!), he’s now at a loss as to what happens next with his career.

The two meet on the covered bridge that Saiko’s father has built for her each year, and at first she is more than a little angry he is invading her space. Not wanting to make a scene – she’s come out without her ladies in waiting – she lets him stay, but doesnt tell him who she is. Over the next few weeks, they meet, fall in love, and there’s plenty of discussions about painting, poetry, nature etc.

Finally, Saiko has to go to the Emperor’s household, and Takamori is to lead her escort. However, they get attacked by a group of Ronin, and they have to separate from the escort.  The pair end up in a protected castle, and it’s here that their relationship becomes more physical. Finally they make it to the Emperor’s household where the Ronin attack again. Saiko defends the emperor, killing a number of soldiers in the process.  As a result, she manages to find a way to leace the emperor and find her true love, with noone losing face, and with her having performed her duty.

It was good to have a female character who was interesting, educated as well as able to hold her own as a warrior (she kills more than a few Ronin along the way, with no subsequent wailing that you might expect from someone not trained as a warrior). Takamori has done well as the Shogun’s Marshal, but is also educated and now searching a different path in life. The occasionally forays into fights are not too often and are decently written, showing that Saiko and Takamori can work well together, whilst showing that Saiko can defend herself (and others) without the need to be “protected by a man” (can you feel the feminism standpoint coming through?)

About this author

Laura Kitchell is a member of Romance Writers of America and Chesapeake Romance Writers. She’s never happier than when she’s spinning a new tale. Hearing from fans is her second favorite activity, though book signings come in a close third. She writes historical, contemporary, and will dabble in romantic suspense and even mermaids when the fancy strikes.

 

#BookReview: His Perfect Bride by Jenn Langston

His Perfect Bride

Richard Carrack received the title of Marquis of Stonemede upon his father’s death six months ago. Knowing of the duties associated with the title, he decides to marry and spend the remainder of his days tending to the estate. His requirements for his bride are simple; he wishes her to be obedient and calm-spirited. When circumstances place him in the path of Lady Brianna Denton, whose wild ways make her an unsuitable candidate, he lies about his identity to discourage her from pursuing him for his title.

Brianna Denton knows what she wants out of life. She wishes to marry an untitled lord and live the remainder of her days in the country with no obligations. Only then can she spend her free time painting. When she meets Mr. Richard, she decides he would make the perfect husband. Little does she know, her boldness puts her in a position where she must decide between what she always thought she wanted and what her heart is telling her.

I was trawling through my e-reader, looking for my next read, and decided that perhaps I should look at some of the books I’ve had for a while. This has been in the background for a while, and on further digging, seems to be one I picked up in 2013 from Amazon.  Unfortunately, it turned out to be what I believe to be the first DNF of the year.

I have read my fair share of inappropriately forward Regency women (landed/titled or no), who take their lives into their own hands, and end up with equally matched men (frequently titled and landed) who meet or best them at their own game. Neither of the two characters here were up to par however – Brianna thinks she knows what she wants, but see-saws between wanting Richard or not. Richard thinks that by playing a waiting game and marrying Brianna, he can tame her into the bride he thinks he wants.  A couple of sex scenes later (not particularly raunchy by today’s standards), and with practically no post-coital regrets on either side later (she wipes away her lack of virginity with nary a glance backwards), shows she has as little respect for her imagined future husband as he does for his possible future bride.

Anyway, I get to 50% of the way through, and I’m asked “what are you reading? Is it any good?”. The latter question made me put it away with a “nah, it’s awful”. No, it wasn’t awful, but not a book I wanted to finish or rave about. So sorry, no idea how it ends – could be fabulous, though I suspect not