Over the last 2 years, I have been regularly sharing my top reads from this blog over at The Riviera Woman.
The Riviera Woman, run by Anna Fill, helps women living or working on the Riviera live life to the full with it’s inspirational people and interesting articles. In 2019, Anna set up Yorkshire Woman on the same concept for women living or working in Yorkshire.
I am thrilled that Anna has asked if she can share my reviews at Yorkshire Woman too.
The first of my recommended reads on both sites is The Path to the Sea by Liz Fenwick. You can read my review on either site by clicking on the logos below.
I am thrilled to be sharing my review of Kathleen McGurl’s latest novel The Forgotten Secret with you today.
Thank you to Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part and to HQ, Harper Collins for sending me an e-copy of the book via Netgalley in return for an honest review.
Scroll on for a taster of the book and to read my review.
~ Publisher’s Description ~
A country at war
It’s the summer of 1919 and Ellen O’Brien has her whole life ahead of her. Young, in love and leaving home for her first job, the future seems full of shining possibility. But war is brewing and before long Ellen and everyone around her are swept up by it. As Ireland is torn apart by the turmoil, Ellen finds herself facing the ultimate test of love and loyalty.
And a long-buried secret
A hundred years later and Clare Farrell has inherited a dilapidated old farmhouse in County Meath. Seizing the chance to escape her unhappy marriage she strikes out on her own for the first time, hoping the old building might also provide clues to her family’s shadowy history. As she sets out to put the place – and herself – back to rights, she stumbles across a long-forgotten hiding place, with a clue to a secret that has lain buried for decades.
For fans of Kate Morton and Gill Paul comes an unforgettable novel about two women fighting for independence.
~ My thoughts ~
I can’t believe I am only just reading Kathleen McGurl’s stories!! I am sure I say this every time I review a book by an author whose books I haven’t read before, but I can’t!
The Forgotten Secret has everything I love in a story: contemporary and historical fiction, a mystery, characters I can easily connect with, well researched, beautifully told.
The story is told as a dual time frame, set between 1919-1920 and the present day. In the historical thread, Kathleen McGurl pulls us into Ellen O’Brien’s life and the War of Irish Independence. I warmed to Ellen instantly and the love she has for her childhood sweetheart is beautiful. Ellen’s story was not easy to read at times and there were instances where I wanted to jump into the page to hug her.
In present day Ireland, we accompany Clare Farrell on her journey to independence from her broken marriage. Having inherited a run-down farmhouse from her uncle, she seizes the chance to leave her husband, Paul, and start a new life. Gosh, I hated Paul. Even after a week, he still hasn’t redeemed himself. Well done to Kathleen McGurl for a writing a character who provoked this emotion in me! I did however really like Clare and was championing her on to really make a new life for herself.
I do love it when a house throws up a mystery to be solved and the farmhouse in this story is no exception. I will say no more for the risk of spoiling the story so you will have to read The Forgotten Secret to find out more.
I love how Kathleen McGurl intertwines both women’s stories, answering questions raised in one era in the other, tying it all up nicely at the end.
I do love reading the acknowledgements at the end of a book. Often, the author will give us an insight into where the idea for the story came from. The seed for The Forgotten Secret was a small nugget of conversation which became this great story.
~ Where to find The Forgotten Secret ~
The Forgotten Secret was published as an eBook by HQ Digital, Harper Collins, in March 2019 and will be published in paperback in May 2019. It can be found at Amazon UK and on Goodreads.
~ About Kathleen McGurl ~
Kathleen McGurl lives near the sea in Bournemouth, UK, with her husband and elderly tabby cat. She has two sons who are now grown-up and have left home. She began her writing career creating short stories, and sold dozens to women’s magazines in the UK and Australia. Then she got side-tracked onto family history research – which led eventually to writing novels with genealogy themes. She has always been fascinated by the past, and the ways in which the past can influence the present, and enjoys exploring these links in her novels.
I am thrilled to be sharing my review of The Girl in the Letter by Emily Gunnis. When it was first published as an eBook, I couldn’t commit to reading to review at the time but I knew that it was a book that I wanted to read. Six months later, I finally got to read it, and it did not disappoint!
Thank you to Phoebe Swinburn at Headline Books for sending me a proof copy of the book in return for an honest review.
~ Publisher’s Description ~
A heartbreaking letter. A girl locked away. A mystery to be solved.
1956. When Ivy Jenkins falls pregnant she is sent in disgrace to St Margaret’s, a dark, brooding house for unmarried mothers. Her baby is adopted against her will. Ivy will never leave.
Present day. Samantha Harper is a journalist desperate for a break. When she stumbles on a letter from the past, the contents shock and move her. The letter is from a young mother, begging to be rescued from St Margaret’s. Before it is too late. Sam is pulled into the tragic story and discovers a spate of unexplained deaths surrounding the woman and her child. With St Margaret’s set for demolition, Sam has only hours to piece together a sixty-year-old mystery before the truth, which lies disturbingly close to home, is lost for ever…
Read her letter. Remember her story…
~ My thoughts ~
The Girl in the Letter is a dual-time frame novel, which alternates between the 1950s and one weekend in 2016. In 2016, Sam’s grandmother finds some old letters in her grandfather’s belongings from a girl called Ivy, detailing her experiences in a mother and baby home in West Sussex in the 1950s. Sam feels drawn to these letters and so begins her journey of finding out who Ivy was and what happened to her and her baby.
Crikey, what an intense read. I finished it a couple of months ago and I think my heart has only just returned to beating its usual rhythm!
The Girl in the Letter is heartbreaking, gut wrenching and gripping. A couple of times I did have to put the book down for a breather because I couldn’t bear to read how Ivy, the other girls and their babies were being treated by the nuns in the home. That reaction is testament to Emily Gunnis’s powerful writing. I have read about these homes in Ireland but I hadn’t realised that they were also in England and until quite the 1970s too. It makes me so angry to think how these girls and women were punished for having children.
The Girl in the Letter is a powerful and emotive read. What a brilliant debut and I am looking forward to reading Emily’s next book.
~ Where to find The Girl in the Letter ~
The Girl in the Letter was published by the Headline Books as an eBook in August 2018 and will be published in paperback in April 2019. It can be found at Amazon UK and on Goodreads.
~ About Emily Gunnis ~
Emily Gunnis previously worked in TV drama and lives in Brighton with her young family. She is one of the four daughters of Sunday Times bestselling author Penny Vincenzi. You can find Emily on Twitter at @EmilyGunnis.
I am pleased to be sharing my review of Dan Proops’ debut novel A Letter from Sarah with you today.
Thank you to Kelly Lacey at Love Books Group Tours for inviting me to take part and to Urbane Books for sending me a copy of the book in return for my honest review.
Scroll down to find out more about the book and to read my thoughts.
~ Publisher’s Description ~
Adam’s sister, Sarah, has been missing for seven years, but he hasn’t given up hope of finding her. He is a sculptor and lives with his bedridden father who is a bully and a curmudgeon.
One morning, as the anniversary of Sarah’s disappearance nears, Adam receives a letter from her and she is apparently alive and well, living in New York. Adam travels to Brooklyn to search for Sarah as he’s desperate to see her, but she seems determined to avoid him.
Sarah’s letters arrive weekly, but she continues to remain elusive. Adam is perplexed by Sarah’s requests for secrecy, as is his father and his girlfriend, Cassandra.
He is determined to find her, whatever the cost to his wellbeing, health and sanity….
~ My thoughts ~
I want to begin by mentioning how well packaged A Letter from Sarah is. The cover (below) is simple yet effective and I love the font choice and colour. It ties in nicely with the idea of the letters coming from New York. At the top of the page for each new chapter, there is ripped paper and a piece across the bottom follows through the entire book. It’s almost as though the story has been written on paper. At the end of each chapter, there is a silhouette of the Manhatten skyline, as per the photo on the left.
The story itself is far from simple though . Dan Proops has crafted an intimate observation of how the loss and resulting grief from a situation can take over your life and impact on those around you. Essentially, it shows how the not knowing what happened could literally drive you mad. We meet Adam, the protagonist, seven years after his sister, Sarah goes missing. With no word from her in this time, suddenly, letters from Sarah start to arrive. This leads Adam to try to find track her down, no matter what.
My thoughts about A Letter from Sarah have taken a while to settle in my mind. This isn’t because I didn’t enjoy the story. I just wasn’t sure what to make of it. Dan Proops has a style of writing that I’ve not read before. Some of the time, I was trying to decide whether I was reading thoughts and feelings from Adam’s imagination or whether it was his reality. As I write this, I think what I was reading was Adam verging on the edge of madness.
This book was not what I expected. Even so, something kept me reading, wanting more. The twist at the end was not something I saw coming and reflecting on this, Dan Proops has created a haunting and disturbing story. You’ll have to read the book to find out more about this.
~ Where to find A Letter from Sarah ~
A Letter from Sarah was published by Urbane Books in March 2019 and can be found at Amazon UK and on Goodreads.
~ About Dan Proops ~
Dan has been a full time writer for six years and has completed four novels and a memoir. He wrote short stories as a teenager gleaning knowledge from his grandmother, the legendary advice columnist, Marje Proops.
Dan was a professional artist, and had a one man show at the age of fourteen in London. He’s had many exhibitions over a long career and his artwork was purchased by internationally acclaimed art dealer, Eric Franck. His artwork appeared frequently in the national press and his painting was featured in Image of the Week in the Times. One of his exhibitions was previewed in the Telegraphby columnist Colin Gleadell.
Dan lives and works in London. He is a Twitter influencer and has a following of 22, 000. Dan has been using the twitter platform for some years. In 2016 he had a wide outreach and his tweets were seen by 1.5 million users.
I am so excited to be sharing with you the cover for Heidi Swain’s latest novel, Poppy’s Recipe for Life, which is due to be published in May 2019. For those of you who are familiar with Heidi’s books, this cover is a slight change in direction and, personally, I love it!
The image at the top of this post is a little taster of the delicious cover but before I reveal the full cover, here’s what Poppy’s Recipe for Life is about.
~ Publisher’s Description ~
Treat yourself to a glorious novel full of food, sunshine, friendship and love
Things haven’t always been straightforward in Poppy’s life but her dreams are finally within her reach.
She’s moving into a cottage in beautiful Nightingale Square, close to the local community garden, where she can indulge her passion for making preserves and pickles. She may not have the best relationship with her family but she is surrounded by loving friends, and feels sure that even her grumpy new neighbour, Jacob, has more to him than his steely exterior belies.
But the unexpected arrival of Poppy’s troubled younger brother soon threatens her new-found happiness and as the garden team works together to win community space of the year, Poppy must decide where her priorities lie and what she is prepared to fight for …
~ Cover Reveal ~
Are you ready?
Here it is!!
What a gorgeous cover!!! It is so sophisticated and I can’t wait to see it brightening up bookshelves far and wide. It has really put me in the mood for Summer and I am so looking forward to reading it whilst lounging in the sunshine 🙂
~ Where to find Poppy’s Recipe for Life ~
Poppy’s Recipe for Life will be published by Simon & Schuster UK in May 2019 and can be found at the following links:
Although passionate about writing from an early age, Heidi
Swain gained a degree in Literature, flirted briefly with a newspaper career,
married and had two children before she plucked up the courage to join a
creative writing class and take her literary ambitions seriously.
A lover of Galaxy bars, vintage paraphernalia and the odd
bottle of fizz, she now writes feel good fiction with heart for Simon and
Her debut novel, The Chery Tree Café was published in July 2015 and since then she has had a further six books published, becoming a Sunday Times Bestseller in 2017. She is currently preparing to celebrate the release of her 2019 summer title, Poppy’s Recipe for Life while working on her next project.
Heidi is represented by Amanda Preston and lives in Norfolk with her wonderful family and a mischievous cat called Storm.
I am delighted to be welcoming author Rachael Featherstoneto Sarah’s Vignettes today. Rachael’s debut novel Puzzle Girl is out in paperback this month and she has written a beautiful piece to share with you about the inspiration behind the story. It’s straight from the heart and I am honoured to be featuring it. There is also a chance for you to win a copy of the book.
Thank you to Emily Glenister at The Dome Press for inviting me to take part in the blog tour and for sending me a copy of the book to be reviewed on Sarah’s Vignettes soon.
~ Publisher’s Description ~
Love is a riddle waiting to be solved… Clued-up career girl Cassy Brookes has life under control until one disastrous morning changes everything. When she finds herself stuck in a doctor s surgery, a cryptic message left in a crossword magazine sends her on a search to find the mysterious puzzle-man behind it. Cassy is soon torn between tracking down her elusive dream guy, and outwitting her nightmare workmate, the devious Martin. Facing a puzzling love-life, will she ever be able to fit the pieces together and discover the truth behind this enigmatic man?
~ Guest Post from Rachael Featherstone ~
I’m often asked what inspired me
to write Puzzle Girl. In a nutshell:
my mum. But that doesn’t do her justice. It’s hard to put into words just how
much of an inspiration my mum was for this book. She wasn’t just the base of a
character or a cheerleader for my writing process. Without her, Puzzle Girl would never have existed,
the idea or the physical book.
I was 23 when I found out my mum
(aged 45) had terminal ovarian cancer. The news was devastating but my mum didn’t
let it stop her from living every minute of her life to the fullest. She
travelled, she fundraised, she did chemo and alternative treatments, she
embraced a raw food diet and positive thinking. She surpassed the doctors’
expectations. She had always been an inspiration to me, bringing me up by
herself, going to university as a mature student to become a primary school
teacher when I was young. But during her illness she showed me just how strong
she really was.
I tried to hold it together, but
I needed an outlet for the emotions I was feeling. When I was a self-conscious
teenager, the first book that offered me true escapism and made me laugh-out-loud
was Can You Keep a Secret by Sophie
Kinsella. So it just seemed to make sense – at a time when I really needed to
find reasons to laugh – to try writing a romantic comedy.
The idea for Puzzle Girl began to take shape while I was sat in a hospital
waiting room with my mum. There was a stack of magazines. I began wondering
what would happen if someone had left a message in one of them and the story
grew from there. While none of the book is based on true events or people, my
mum was the catalyst for writing the book and I wanted her reflected in the
story in some way.
At one point in the novel, Cassy
(for reasons I will leave you to discover!) finds herself reluctantly in a yoga
class. My mum only trained to be a yoga teacher when I was older so it’s not
often how I remember her but many people do. She touched so many people’s
lives. She was the sunshine on a rainy day. That’s why I created Letitia
My mum died before I finished my
book but she never doubted I would get it published one day. When she was in
the hospice, I read her the Letitia Sunshine passage and it is so special to
me. Puzzle Girl has gone through HUGE
structural changes since then, but the short scene with Letitia Sunshine is
almost unchanged from the original. Knowing my mum heard that part is so
incredibly important to me.
Writing Puzzle Girl was in many ways a coping mechanism for what was going
on in my life at the time. Puzzle Girl
is more than just my debut novel, it contains a memory, a part of my history
and a link to my mum, that I will always cherish. I hope reading Puzzle Girl offers you some escapism and
makes you laugh whether on a rainy day or in the sunshine!
~ Where to find Puzzle Girl ~
Puzzle Girl was published by The Dome Press in ebook in August 2018 and in paperback in January 2019. It can be found at Amazon UK and on Goodreads.
~ Giveaway ~
For your chance to win a paperback copy of Puzzle Girl, click on the button below. The giveaway is open until 12am on 20 January 2019. A winner will be announced shortly afterwards. UK entries only please. Good luck!! Full terms and conditions are below the entry button.
*Terms and Conditions –UK and Ireland entries only. Please enter using the button above. The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Sarah’s Vignettes will delete the data. Sarah’s Vignettes is not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.
~ About Rachael Featherstone ~
Rachael Featherstone was born and raised in Woodford.
Her path to writing was a little unorthodox. After reading Mathematics at
Oxford University, New College, Rachael went to work in research.
When Rachael’s mother was diagnosed with terminal
cancer in 2012, Rachael decided to take a chance, quit her job, and fulfill a
lifetime ambition to write a novel. She went back to university and completed a
Masters in English Literature and had several short stories published.
Rachael now lives in Hampshire with her husband and daughter.