Review: The Winter Companion by Mimi Matthews

Title: The Winter Companion

Author: Mimi Matthews

Publication Date: 11 February

Available for preorder

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Yet again, Mimi Matthews delivers a deliciously addictive and wonderfully written love story with The Winter Companion. This time, we delve into the lives of Neville Cross and Clara Hartwright. If you’ve been following the Parish Orphans of Devon series, then you’ve already had glimpses of Neville. Of all the boys (now men) who’d grown up together in the orphanage, I was always most curious about Neville, especially considering the injury he’d sustained from his fall from the cliffs. We get more insight into his life and how his BTI has affected him and the choices he’s made along the way.

With the coming Christmas holidays as the backdrop, Matthews sets the stage for a very nice slow-burn love story. We have Neville, painfully shy at times and more at home outdoors than in drawing rooms making small talk, and Clara, a paid companion to Mrs. Bainbridge who longs to learn and know more–but held back because of her gender and a secret from her past. Already from their first meeting, thanks to an elderly pug called Bertie, we know that Neville and Clara are meant to be. The question is how will it come to pass. And their path to love is very satisfying.

There are so many things that I loved about The Winter Companion: the richness of the setting, how Matthews weaves in the cast of characters we recognize from previous books in the series, how even the secondary characters come across as fully realized people and not simply as props… I could go on. But the most important factor for me in loving this book was how Matthews writes about Neville and his brain trauma injury. Gaining insight into how it has affected his life and how he’s tried to deal with it…as well as the initial resentment he felt at being the one left behind…made me as a reader feel such empathy for him and gave me a better understanding of why Neville never strayed far from the abbey.

I also enjoyed that Matthews allows us time to get to know Neville and Clara. They’re complex characters and having the chance to find out how life’s experiences made them who they are gave even more depth to their story.

If you like historical romance, then I think you’ll love the Winter Companion. For me, reading this book was pure pleasure. Highly recommended!

Review: In Black & White by Nia Forrester

Nia Forrester never fails to create realistic portrayals of love that I always find so beautifully written. She never disappoints. And this is definitely true in her latest, In Black & White

Set in a leafy suburb of Philadelphia, we’re immediate dropped into what is every parent’s nightmare–the disappearance of a child. In this case, it’s the disappearance of 18-month-old Samara, the daughter of interracial couple Noah and Dana. Samara’s abduction and the subsequent fallout around it mark the beginning of a fascinating story that is in parts mystery and a thoroughly modern story of a love on the rocks. 

Forrester is a master at crafting three-dimensional characters. Dana and Noah are no different. From the first chapter when we learn the status of their marriage, we are given a very realistic, sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes frustrating portrayal of a couple who come from different worlds. Noah is the product of privileged, old Pennsylvania money. Dana is his polar opposite–raised in a working-class neighbourhood in Baltimore by her grandmother and her older sister, she has struggled to get used to the life of privilege being Noah’s wife affords, especially since her skin color will always mark her as out of place in the world that Noah comes from. One of the aspects I loved about In Black & White is how Forrester deftly takes us through the couple’s history and its relevance to their separation. These snippets of their shared past help the reader understand who Dana and Noah were when they first met and what attracted them to one another as well as what has driven them apart. 

This is not a sugar-coated, fantasy-laden love story, so if that’s what you’re looking for, then this isn’t going to be the book for you. But if you’re in the mood for a very realistic look at a modern love and marriage, racial and socioeconomic differences (and how it can make or break a couple), and how the disappearance of a child can unveil secrets, then you’re going to love In Black & White.

Highly recommended! 5 stars.

Review: Perception by Terri Fleming

Screen Shot 2018-05-10 at 14.28.45Title: Perception

Author: Terri Fleming

Publication Date: July 13, 2017

Synopsis:

Mary Bennet does not dream of marriage. Much to her mother’s horror, Mary is determined not to follow in the footsteps of her elder sisters, Jane (now Mrs Bingley) and Lizzy (now Mrs Darcy). Living at home with her remaining sister, Kitty, and her parents, Mary does not care for fashions or flattery. Her hopes are simple – a roof over her head, music at the piano, a book in her hand and the freedom not to marry the first bachelor her mother can snare for her.

But Mrs Bennet is not accustomed to listening to her daughters.

While Kitty is presented with tempting choices and left trying to resist old habits, May discovers that things are not always what they seem and that happiness has a price. But by the time she realises that her perceptions might be false, could she have missed her chance at a future she’d never imagined?

REVIEW

As much as I love Jane Austen’s novels, I tend to avoid the stream of sequels to them written by contemporary authors. Initially, I fall under their spell and read them, but more often than not they don’t really leave me feeling satisfied. Imagine my happiness now that I’ve finally read a Jane Austen sequel that was very satisfying and left me wanting to read more! Yes, I can happily say that Perception is a Jane Austen sequel I can wholeheartedly recommend.

Perception picks up several years after Pride and Prejudice. We follow the lives of Mary and Kitty Bennet, the only daughters still at home with Mr. and Mrs. Bennet now that Jane, Lizzy and Lydia are married. As with Pride and Prejudice, Mrs. Bennet bemoans the plight of still having two unmarried daughters and wonders what will become of them. Mary, who is a bookish introvert who has accepted that she is not as beautiful as her sisters and also hates the societal conventions that require women to be frivolous and vapid, seems to accepted her lot in life. She assumes she will be a spinster who must take care of her parents when her sister Kitty eventually marries. For her part, Kitty worries that she will never meet anyone she wants to marry. She also assumes that she will end up a spinster, still living in her childhood bedroom and caring for her ageing parents. But, of course, fate…and the arrival of a very eligible bachelor shakes things up for both Mary and Kitty.

Perception excels at returning the reader to Longbourn House of Pride and Prejudice and into Mary and Kitty’s lives. Fleming does a wonderful job of recreating slightly older and (not always) wiser Mary and Kitty and their every day worries and squabbles. I loved watching the evolution of two women as individuals and as sisters. I also felt that the potential suitors Fleming created for the sisters were perfect choices and the arcs of their relationships was enjoyable to read, especially as Fleming often took unpredictable turns in the course of the story.

Without a shadow of a doubt, I can highly recommend Terri Fleming’s Perception. I loved following this wonderfully written sequel to Pride and Prejudice, and I look forward to reading more novels by Fleming.

My rating? 5 stars

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Review: The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, which means that I’ll receive a commission–at no additional cost to you–if you click on them and make a purchase. 

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The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo

Release Date: 9 May 2017

Synopsis

He was the first person to inspire her, to move her, to truly understand her. Was he meant to be the last?

Lucy is faced with a life-altering choice. But before she can make her decision, she must start her story–their story–at the very beginning.

Lucy and Gabe meet as seniors at Columbia University on a day that changes both of their lives forever. Together, they decide they want their lives to mean something, to matter. When they meet again a year later, it seems fated–perhaps they’ll find life’s meaning in each other. But then Gabe becomes a photojournalist assigned to the Middle East and Lucy pursues a career in New York. What follows is a thirteen-year journey of dreams, desires, jealousies, betrayals, and, ultimately, of love. Was it fate that brought them together? Is it choice that has kept them away? Their journey takes Lucy and Gabe continents apart, but never out of each other’s hearts.

This devastatingly romantic debut novel about the enduring power of first love, with a shocking, unforgettable ending, is Love Story for a new generation.

Review

Some books tell stories that are bound to make you a little (or, okay, extremely) emotional. And you have to simply accept that it will happen. You’ll re-read passages, feel completely immersed in the scenes and wonder if everyone else who’s read it experienced the same thing. For me, this was the case with Jill Santopolo’s The Light We Lost. I’d heard a lot about the book, I’d even 1-clicked it for my Kindle but never got around to reading it until last week.

Wow. I loved following Lucy and Gabe’s story. Theirs is not a conventional love story. There is no HEA. I’m putting it out there for you now. If that’s what you want, this is not the story for you, but it is a heart wrenching portrayal of love found, love lost and what happens in between as these two lovers find themselves separated by distance, by principles and sometimes by other people.

What I especially liked with The Light We Lost was how flawed both Lucy and Gabe are as characters. Yes, they are both selfish sometimes and they will do things that will often leave you wondering why you even empathise with them, but ultimately they stand by the choices they make and, for me as a reader, I could completely understand their reactions and decisions, even when I could not imagine myself doing the same.

I just read that The Light We Lost is in development to be a movie. It will be interesting to see who they cast to play Lucy and Gabe.

Anyway, I loved The Light We Lost. I will probably re-read it in a few weeks just because. Do I recommend it? Absolutely. But bear in mind that, even those this is a romance, it’s more in the lines of One Day or Me Before You. And if you’ve read either of those, you know exactly what I mean.

My rating?

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Disclaimer: The links included in this review are affiliate links.

Review: Still Me by Jojo Moyes

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Title: Still Me (Me Before You, #3)

Author: Jojo Moyes

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Release Date: 25 January 2018

SYNOPSIS

Lou Clark is back in the BRAND NEW Jojo Moyes novel Still Me, follow-up to the Number One international bestsellers Me Before You and After You.

Lou Clark knows too many things . . .

She knows how many miles lie between her new home in New York and her new boyfriend Sam in London.

She knows her employer is a good man and she knows his wife is keeping a secret from him.

What Lou doesn’t know is she’s about to meet someone who’s going to turn her whole life upside down.

Because Josh will remind her so much of a man she used to know that it’ll hurt.

Lou won’t know what to do next, but she knows that whatever she chooses is going to change everything.

REVIEW

I was such a huge fan of Me Before You, so I felt compelled to read Still Me, even if After You (Me Before You, #2) was not really my favourite. I am so glad I went ahead and pre-ordered it for my Kindle.

For those of you who read and loved Me Before You, you’ll remember that one of the things that Will told Lou to do was to live boldly and to leave her hometown behind her and see the world. Well, now Lou’s in New York, working as a personal assistant to an über wealthy woman and trying to figure out what she really wants out of life. Will her year in the Big Apple open her eyes to new adventures or will she return home to her old life?

Well, I for one can say that I loved reading Still Me almost as much as I loved reading Me Before You. Lou is such a relatable character and her relationship with her new boyfriend, Sam, feels so real–even down to the the misunderstandings brought on by social media and text messages.

Don’t read Still Me expecting the major ugly cry moments of Me Before You. This is a completely different story, but it does have its emotional bits that will make you smile or wish you could grab Lou by the shoulders and shake some sense into her. 😉 You will definitely leave this book shaking your head and realising that F. Scott Fitzgerald was right when he said the rich are different. 😉

Highly recommended!

My rating?

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Review: The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

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Title: The Wedding Date

Author: Jasmine Guillory

Publication Date: 30 January 2018

SYNOPSIS:

A groomsman and his last-minute guest are about to discover if a fake date can go the distance in a fun and flirty debut novel.

Agreeing to go to a wedding with a guy she gets stuck with in an elevator is something Alexa Monroe wouldn’t normally do. But there’s something about Drew Nichols that’s too hard to resist.

On the eve of his ex’s wedding festivities, Drew is minus a plus one. Until a power outage strands him with the perfect candidate for a fake girlfriend…

After Alexa and Drew have more fun than they ever thought possible, Drew has to fly back to Los Angeles and his job as a pediatric surgeon, and Alexa heads home to Berkeley, where she’s the mayor’s chief of staff. Too bad they can’t stop thinking about the other…

They’re just two high-powered professionals on a collision course toward the long distance dating disaster of the century–or closing the gap between what they think they need and what they truly want…

REVIEW

What would you do if a really gorgeous stranger asked you to be his date for a wedding? Would you say no and laugh it off? Or…would you say yes and see what happens? That’s the situation Alexa Monroe is faced with when she has her meet-cute with Drew Nichols once the two are stuck in an elevator during a power outage in a swanky hotel in San Francisco. What starts off as a fake date has the potential to become something more for commitment-phobe Drew and over thinker Alexa. Will they take their fake date to another level or will they keep on pretending?

The Wedding Date is a fun, sexy (though probably not graphic enough for some readers) romance about the world of modern dating between a black woman and a white man in post-Trump America. Does Guillory touch upon race? Yes, in a very relevant way and with a light hand. It never feels like a sociology lesson and it flows naturally with the plot.

Will you enjoy reading the ups and downs Alexa and Drew experience? Yes, and you won’t want to put your Kindle down. I loved how Guillory handled the subjects of interracial relationships, long-distance relationships and the pitfalls of trying to interpret text messages. So many of the situations in the book made me laugh as I’ve been through them myself.

Take my advice, get thee to your favourite bookstore and pick up a copy of The Wedding Date. You’re going to love Alexa and Drew and you’ll wish it was already a movie.

Highly recommended!

My rating?

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Review: Faking Friends by Jane Fallon

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Title: Faking Friends

Author: Jane Fallon

Release Date: 11 January 2018

Synopsis:

Best friend, soulmate, confidante . . . backstabber.

Amy thought she knew everything there was to know about her best friend Melissa. Then again, Amy also thought she was on the verge of the wedding of her dreams to her long-distance fiancé.

Until she pays a surprise trip home to London. Jack is out, but it’s clear another woman has been making herself at home in their flat.

There’s something about her stuff that feels oddly familiar . . . and then it hits Amy. The Other Woman is Melissa.

Amy has lost her home, her fiancé and her best friend in one disastrous weekend – but instead of falling apart, she’s determined to get her own back.

Piecing her life back together won’t be half as fun as dismantling theirs, after all.

REVIEW

Jane Fallon’s Faking Friends is a great page turner of a read that had me hooked already from page one. I loved following Amy’s story as she comes to realise that the man she loves has not been faithful and the woman he’s been unfaithful with just happens to be Amy’s closest friend. What unfolds from then onwards is an addictive tale of frenemies, revenge and dreams (lost and found).

A fun read that shows us Amy’s past and present, and gives the reader a satisfying story that leaves us asking whether revenge is really worth it and what happens when a frenemy becomes a full-blown enemy.

Highly recommended!

My rating?

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Review: Halsey Street by Naima Coster

Screen Shot 2018-01-14 at 12.37.09Some books simply speak to you. That was the case for me with Halsey Street by Naima Coster.

Penelope’s story of leaving Pittsburgh and returning home to Brooklyn to keep an eye on her father, whose health has deteriorated almost as much as their family home on Halsey Street.

The Brooklyn Penelope returns to is undergoing gentrification. All the old businesses, including the record shop her father owned, have disappeared, as have many of the neighbours she knew, replaced now by hipsters and upwardly mobile white urban professionals with the cash to pay higher rents and property prices. Penelope tries to find her way–in her personal life, with her father and the past–as her old neighborhood transforms around her–for good and bad.

Coster does a fantastic job of pulling the reader into this story of family, loss and change. She captures perfectly Penelope’s frustration at her situation and her father’s, at the attraction she feels for her landlord’s husband, and her uncertainty of what the rest of life has in store for her. The characterisation and story arc are detailed without being overwrought. Quite simply, this is prose that sparkles.

Highly recommended!

My rating:

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Review: A Winter’s Tale by Carrie Elks

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A heartwarming, sexy and funny holiday romance.

What would you do if you’ve been trying to find an internship for ages but your shyness seems to get in the way? That’s Kitty Shakespeare’s predicament when, instead of an internship, she’s offered the chance to be a nanny over Christmas to the son of a hot (though notoriously difficult) Hollywood star. Not an ideal situation, but Kitty takes it and hopes it will help her get her foot in the door. What she isn’t counting on is totalling her rental car once she arrives in West Virginia. Luckily, a sexy but taciturn stranger comes to her rescue….he’s a bit of a jerk, but at least he gets her to her destination. That stranger turns out to be Adam Klein, documentary filmmaker and estranged brother of her employer. Yes, sparks are going to fly and you’ll love it.

A Winter’s Tale is the second story in the Shakespeare Sisters series and it’s a wonderful Christmas love story set in the Blue Ridge Mountains (which are beautifully described in the novel). When I was reading A Winter’s Tale, I forgot I was reading a book—I felt like I was immersed in one of my favourite Christmas movies. I loved it. I started picturing Tom Hardy as Adam Klein…yes, my imagination got the best of me. 🙂 It’s a great opposites attract story that’s heartwarming, funny and sexy at the same time.

I loved the scenes between Kitty and Annie, the housekeeper who keeps all the Klein family secrets, and little Jonas is such a sweetie you wish you could give him a hug through the pages. But the very rugged Adam Klein is deliciously sexy—yes, you’ll wish you could spend Christmas with him.

So should you read A Winter’s Tale? Absolutely! And will you love it? Yes, I am pretty sure you will! And even though A Winter’s Tale is the second book in the series, it reads like a standalone, so it’s okay if you haven’t read the first book (Summer’s Lease), but I think you’ll want to read it too.

My rating? Five stars, without a doubt.

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Note: I received an ARC from the publisher, which I voluntarily chose to review.

Review: A Summer Affair by Janae Keyes

Screen Shot 2017-10-03 at 06.47.44I love short stories. I like the feeling of satisfaction I get when I can read a complete story while on my morning commute or during my lunch break. Not every short story succeeds in eliciting that satisfied sensation–the pacing may be too rushed or the characterisation flimsy, but Janae Keyes’s A Summer Affair most definitely succeeded.

With A Summer Affair, Janae gives us a very emotional and relatable story about unexpected love. We meet Ashlee, a wife and author who is dealing with a clingy child and a neglectful husband. We also have Kyle, the author who just happens to be as sexy as all get-out. Of course sparks fly. And we want them to–even when we know they shouldn’t.

I loved the emotional rollercoaster that Janae takes us on. I also loved how she depicted Ashlee and Kyle’s feelings for one another. It came across, for me, as believable and understandable. This was my first time reading a Janae Keyes book and it definitely will not be my last.

My rating?

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