Tag: England

Book Review: Isabelle and Alexander, by Rebecca Anderson

Image belongs to Shadow Mountain Publishing.

TitleIsabelle and Alexander
Author:  Rebecca Anderson
Genre:  Romance
Rating:  4 out of 5

Isabelle Rackham knows she will not marry for love. Though arranged marriages have fallen out of fashion, hers has been settled for some time. Alexander Osgood is handsome, well-known, and wealthy, but he is distant and aloof, spending much of his time at his textile mill.

Moreover, Northern England is nothing like Isabelle’s home in the Lake Country, and her marriage is far from the fairy tale she expected. Conversations with Alexander are awkward, when they happen at all, and Isabelle struggles with loneliness.

Sensing his wife’s unhappiness, Alexander brings Isabelle to his country estate. During their time together, the couple begins to build a friendship, opening up to each other about the details of their lives. But when a tragic accident leaves Alexander unable to walk, their fledgling relationship is tested.

Isabelle is determined to see to her husband’s recovery, and in caring for him, she discovers within herself an untapped well of strength and courage. In learning to rely on each other, the couple has an opportunity to forge a love connection that they both have longed for but never dreamed could be.

This was a sweet read with the feel of a Jane Austen novel. Isabelle’s life and upbringing have been very limiting, so after her marriage, when she starts experiencing more of life and the world, she changes and steps into her own self. She learns who she is, what she wants, and how to stand up for it. Both Isabelle and Alexander are people who must learn how to be open with others and how to communicate, and I really enjoyed this read.

Rebecca Anderson is a high school English teacher. Isabelle and Alexander is her new novel.

(Galley courtesy of Shadow Mountain Publishing in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review and Blog Tour: The Funny Thing About Norman Foreman, by Julietta Henderson

Image belongs to Harlequin/MIRA.

TitleThe Funny Thing About Norman Foreman
AuthorJulietta Henderson
Genre:  YA
Rating:  5 out of 5

Twelve-year-old Norman Foreman and his best friend, Jax, are a legendary comedic duo in waiting, with a plan to take their act all the way to the Edinburgh Fringe. But when Jax dies, Norman decides the only fitting tribute is to perform at the festival himself. The problem is, Norman’s not the funny one. Jax was.

There’s also another, far more colossal objective on Norman’s new plan that his single mom, Sadie, wasn’t ready for: he wants to find the father he’s never known. Determined to put a smile back on her boy’s face, Sadie resolves to face up to her own messy past, get Norman to the Fringe and help track down a man whose identity is a mystery, even to her.

I’ll be honest, initially, Sadie’s voice almost made me put this down. She just sounded so defeated. I am SO glad I didn’t! This ended up being a fantastic read! Norman is an awesome kid. I have no idea how he has such a positive attitude, considering everything, but he’s so uplifting and inspiring!

And, actually, Sadie is defeated when the book starts out. By life. By all the tragedy and hardship she’s experienced, by her own regrets, by her fears for Norman, and her grief. This story is as much her journey as Norman’s, and it ended up being such an enthralling story, with both laughter and tears, and I enjoyed it immensely.

Julietta Henderson is a full-time writer. The Funny Thing About Norman Foreman is her debut novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/MIRA in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Sweetshop of Dreams, by Jenny Colgan

Image belongs to Sourcebooks Landmark.

TitleSweetshop of Dreams
AuthorJenny Colgan
Genre:  Women’s fiction
Rating: 5 out of 5

Rosie Hopkins has gotten used to busy London life. It’s…comfortable. And though she might like a more rewarding career, and her boyfriend’s not exactly the king of romance, Rosie’s not complaining. And when she visits her Aunt Lilian’s small country village to help sort out her sweetshop, she expects it to be dull at best.

Lilian Hopkins has spent her life running Lipton’s sweetshop, through wartime and family feuds. When her great-niece Rosie arrives to help her with the shop, the last thing Lillian wants to slow down and wrestle with the secret history hidden behind the jars of beautifully colored sweets.

But as Rosie gets Lilian back on her feet, breathes a new life into the candy shop, and gets to know the mysterious and solitary Stephen—whose family seems to own the entire town—she starts to think that settling for what’s comfortable might not be so great after all.

This was such a fun book! Rosie’s boyfriend got on my very last nerve—and he’s fictional! I loved the scenes of life in the little village, and Rosie’s misadventures had me laughing. Reading this was sheer enjoyment!

Jenny Colgan was born in Scotland. Sweetshop of Dreams is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Sourcebooks Landmark in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Sign of Death, by Callie Hutton

Image belongs to Crooked Lane Books.

TitleThe Sign of Death
Author Callie Hutton
Genre:  Historical fiction, cozy mystery
Rating:  4 out of 5

Bath, England, 1891. Mr. James Harding was a lot of things–businessman, well-to-do, probable scoundrel–but a drinker he most assuredly was not. So when Harding is believed to have drunkenly fallen to his death into the icy River Avon, Lord William Wethington is immediately suspicious. Finding Lord William’s name on a letter in the victim’s pocket, the local constabulary summons William to identify the victim. Police detectives learn that William had been one of Harding’s business clients–and undoubtedly not the only client the dead man had cheated.

William entreats Lady Amy Lovell, a fellow member of the Mystery Book Club of Bath, to help him deduce what really happened to the late Mr. Harding. Lady Amy, a celebrated mystery author herself, once called on William to help her solve a real-life mystery, and now she fully intends to return the favor. But it won’t be easy.

Practically every one of Harding’s many clients had ample reason to want to do him in. And there’s precious little time to narrow down the list: William and Amy soon become prime suspects themselves when the police discover them ruffling through files in Harding’s house. Lady Amy will have to be as clever as her characters if she’s to save William from the gallows…and herself from Harding’s real killer.

I’m really liking this series so far! The Victorian setting is a lot of fun, with Amy struggling to make her own place in the world and do what makes her happy—not what everyone else thinks she should do. William is also quite likable, and I like this unique setting for a cozy mystery series. Definitely a fun read!

Callie Hutton writes historical fiction. The Sign of Death is the newest book in the Victorian Book Club Mystery series.

(Galley courtesy of Crooked Lane Books in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Last Garden in England, by Julia Kelly

Image belongs to Gallery Books.

TitleThe Last Garden in England
AuthorJulia Kelly
Genre:  Fiction, historical
Rating:  4 out of 5

Present day: Emma Lovett, who has dedicated her career to breathing new life into long-neglected gardens, has just been given the opportunity of a lifetime: to restore the gardens of the famed Highbury House estate, designed in 1907 by her hero Venetia Smith. But as Emma dives deeper into the gardens’ past, she begins to uncover secrets that have long lain hidden.

1907: A talented artist with a growing reputation for her ambitious work, Venetia Smith has carved out a niche for herself as a garden designer to industrialists, solicitors, and bankers looking to show off their wealth with sumptuous country houses. When she is hired to design the gardens of Highbury House, she is determined to make them a triumph, but the gardens—and the people she meets—promise to change her life forever.

1944: When land girl Beth Pedley arrives at a farm on the outskirts of the village of Highbury, all she wants is to find a place she can call home. Cook Stella Adderton, on the other hand, is desperate to leave Highbury House to pursue her own dreams. And widow Diana Symonds, the mistress of the grand house, is anxiously trying to cling to her pre-war life now that her home has been requisitioned and transformed into a convalescent hospital for wounded soldiers. But when war threatens Highbury House’s treasured gardens, these three very different women are drawn together by a secret that will last for decades.

I enjoyed all three timelines in this novel. I’m not sure I’ve read anything by this author before, but I’ll definitely be on the lookout in the future. Emma’s timeline, the present-day, was probably my favorite, as she experiences a lot of character growth and she seemed like she’d be a fun person to hang out with. Venetia was dealing with so much living on the edge of high society—those people were awful—and this didn’t end like I thought it was going to. Beth’s timeline featured things I’d never heard of, keeping me interested and invested in the characters. This is definitely a solid read!

Julia Kelly is a bestselling author.  The Last Garden in England is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Gallery Books in exchange for an honest review.)