Thursday, 28 May 2015

The Sun In Her Eyes by Paige Toon

Blinding sunshine. ... A bend in the road. ..
What became of the little girl with the sun in her eyes?

Amber was three when a car crash stole her mother's life. She doesn't remember the accident, but a stranger at the scene has been unable to forget.  Now almost thirty years later, she's trying to track Amber down.

Amber, meanwhile,  is married to Ned and living on the other side of the world in London. When her father has a stroke she flies straight home to Australia to be with him.
Away from her husband, Amber finds comfort in her oldest friends, but her feelings for Ethan, the gorgeous, green eyed man she once fell for, have never been platonic.

As Ethan and Amber grow closer, married life in London feels very far away. Then Amber receives a letter that changes everything.

"Before your Mother died, she asked me to tell you something...."

"The perfect summer read" ~ Heat

I'm going to start with saying that despite this book reducing me to tears, I absolutely loved it!

I'm aware that Paige Toon has a few  novels out there, I first became aware of her when I read Thirteen Weddings last year.

I love Paige Toons writing style, The Sun In Her Eyes is set between rainy London and sunny Oz... having done some research on the author I discovered that most, if not all, of her books are based in these two countries and that stems from her personal up bringing.

I've also discovered that within Paige Toons books some of her characters cross reference. .. for example, in this book, Neds colleague, Zara, also features in Thirteen Weddings -based on this alone I've vowed to revisit all of her books to see how other characters make cameos! Very clever and something I've not known other authors to achieve.

The first half of The Sun In Her Eyes was an easy read...

Amber is married to Ned, she left her job as a teacher for something with  higher pay but is soon made redundant. Their marriage is rocky, Amber is convinced that Zara is after her hubby and if you've read the previous book with this character you can understand why!
No sooner as she loses her job, her father has a stroke... perfect timing but thats the beauty of the book world eh?!
Amber flies to Australia to help care for her dad and help with his recovery, despite the lack of bond she has with his partner.

To escape Liz's ways, Amber relies on her fiends and drunken nights out... its almost as if she is reliving her youth now she's home. Then Ethan arrives.
Amber last saw him at her wedding and even though she committed to Ned, Ethan always has a piece of her heart and when she accidentally let's slip she loves him they become close... too close!

Neither Amber's relationship with her husband or her lover are easy ones and each have their problems but then Amber gets another distraction when a letter comes from the lady who was there when her mother died in a car accident. Doris claims to have a message from Amber's mum and they arrange to meet up... that's not all that Amber has on her mind though.

The second half of the book for me was much harder to read.
This has nothing to do with the way it's written but more with the fact that Amber reveals her and Ned had a miscarriage the year before and Amber partly blames herself for this as she had a fall shortly before her loss - Paige Toon wrote this storyline tastefully however, personally I related to Amber on another level as I've been in this situation.

For a couple of chapters I picked the book up and put it's down again numerous times and eventually got past that section and continued with the story... which I have to say had a fab ending.

Amber received her mother's dying message via Doris and got her marriage back on track. .. she even started to make amends with Liz who was about to become a permanent fixture in her fathers life.

Many reviews on The Sun In Her Eyes I've seen state how Amber came across as someone proud of her affair and relished in her childish ways with her step mum, in my view I just saw a woman that had something missing in her life. She never really knew what it was, never really knew what path to take. But that letter changed everything and although a simple message, one that you'd expect from a dying parent, was given, I felt it made Amber the character she was.

Despite my personal difficulties with this story, I wouldn't hesitate to pass the boon on to my friends as I'd thoroughly recommend it.

I'm off to find my next Paige Toon book ;)

Monday, 25 May 2015

The Perfect Match by Katie Fford

Three years ago, Bella Castle left her hometown nursing a broken heart over Dominic Thane.

Now she has a new job she loves, selling houses in the Cotswolds countryside. And her boyfriend, Nevil, has just proposed.
They're just right for each other, Bella tells herself. So why doesn't she feel happier?

The Dominic turns up unexpectedly.

And Bella begins to ask herself whether Nevil really is her perfect match after all...

"A perfect match for an afternoon curled up on the sofa!" ~ The Sun

It's been a while since I've read something from Katie Fford and I'd forgotten just how adorable her books where.

The Perfect Match follows the story of Bella Castle, a kind and caring estate agent who goes above and beyond her work duties.
She's dating her boss, Nevil, who as a character I took an instant dislike too. Hes cocky and arrogant  and completely uncaring which had be questioning why Bella was with him from the start - he's doesn't even propose to Bella but more tells her that they are getting engaged!

Bella moved in with her godmother, Alice, after fleeing her hometown when the man she was madly I love with, Dominic , was expecting a baby with his wife. It's clear that Bella and Alice dote on each other  and have a really lovely relationship. And whilst Alice's life is moving full steam ahead after discovering love at the age of 60, Bella life is falling apart, mainly because Dominic re enters her life.

Dominic is the nephew of Jane, a client come friend of Bella's, and a well respected solicitor. When old feelings return Bella questions her relationship with Nevil, even more so when she finally gets her most awkward clients to agree to buying a house only to out that there are some wrong doings going on and Nevil is at the forefront of them, and eventually turns to Dominic for help and the pair working together discover that their feelings are mutual.

Katie Fford has a great way of writing in depth, at times I was transported from my home to one in the Cotswolds country side eating cake and sipping tea or champagne.

The Perfect Match is a cute, light read with a romantic feel. The characters (apart from Nevil!) are loveable and easy to get to know and I shall certainly be adding some more of Katie's books to my reading list! 

Monday, 18 May 2015

Always The Bridesmaid by Lindsey Kelk

It feels like it's taken me ages to read Always the Bridesmaid, when in truth it's only been a week and that was purely down to the fact that it was my birthday and I was a busy bee!

Last Saturday, May 9th, I was privileged to meet the lovely Lindsey Kelk at Southampton's West Quay branch of Waterstones.

I'd never been to a book signing before for one reason or another and having seen Always the Bridesmaid down my twitter feed for weeks it just seemed right that I attended... probably helped that my other half said he would buy the book for me as a gift. ..yay!

Lindsey was absolutely lovely and happy to chat, but I won't lie... I couldn't get out of there quick enough... I did have a new book to read ;)

I started reading Always the Bridesmaid as soon as I got home - went down nicely with the free bottle that came with it haha!

Except Maddie, who's perpetually asked to be one.
Except Maddie's best friend, who's getting a divorce.
Except Maddie herself.

One best friend is in wedding countdown while the other is heading for a marriage meltdown. And as Maddie juggles her best chance at promotion in years with bridezilla texts and late night counselling sessions, she starts to wonder - is it time to stop being the Bridesmaid?

"Outrageous, witty, exciting and romantic" ~ Closer

Page one of Always the Bridesmaid starts with the title 'My Bridesmaid Journal'.
There is then a list which had been filled out by Maddie Fraser, the books main character, containing basic information on the wedding - the brides name,  how they met and how long they've known each other for example.
The last question asks how Maddie feels being a bridesmaid and her honest answer, which states she would rather pull her womb out with a rusty coathanger,  has then been crossed out and replaced with the simple word 'blessed' - this had me  giggling from the get go. .. I knew instantly that Maddie was one of those characters I was going to love with a story I'd be addicted to and I wasn't disapointed! What I also liked from the book was that each chapter was a date from the bridesmaid journal, each one with the two lines;
Today I feel:
Today I am thankful for:
Some of Maddie's replies to this were brilliant and you really got a sense of Kelk's writing wit and ofcourse an insight to Maddie's character!

Maddie is an assistant for an events company with a bitch of a boss, she's unlucky in love -her ex boyfriend Seb cheated on her and has just become a dad, and her family think she's letting her life waste away.
There's only two main stable things in her life, her best friends Lauren and Sarah.

When Lauren announces she's getting married and would Maddie's help with the planning, little did Maddie know that Lauren would become the ultimate bridezilla! Maddie is confronted with a three month time scale and requests you'd need to be super human to fulfill, yet being the friend she is she puts up with the demands and plan changes... even at 4am!!

Whilst Lauren's life is full steam ahead, Sarah's is falling apart when her husband announces he wants a divorce. Maddie is stuck in the middle tying to keep one friend happy and the other from an emotional breakdown.... and whilst she's doing this, she's also up for promotion at work.
A job that Sarah has also applied for, a job with even more demands than Lauren's wedding...

There's also Tom who has specifically requested Maddie plan his mum's birthday party... purely due to the massive crush he's got on Maddie, the trouble is... Maddie is sleeping with his friend Will!

Over the course of the three months leading to Lauren's wedding, Maddie's life gets complicated to say the least and it all comes to a head when the job she needed to impress with for promotion goes hideously wrong and she discovers she's actually Will's bit on the side... A full blown melt down occurs resulting with the three girls not talking and Maddie out of work.

As with all good chick - lit books, Always the Bridesmaid does give you a happy ending.
Eventually the girls reunite for the wedding and Maddie and Tom, or Madom as ive named them in my head, get together (yay!).
Sarah also declares that she was offered Maddie's job but turns it down... now that's friendship loyalty, and they decide to set up their own party planning venture... which is fab as it leaves the story open should Lindsey Kelk decide to return to Maddie's life... I for one have my fingers crossed!!

Always the Bridesmaid was my first Lindsey Kelk read and I can say I thoroughly enjoyed the book - I've now added her "I Heart" series to my TBR list ;)

Friday, 8 May 2015

Undertaking Love by Kat French

'Try not tho wheel any dead bodies across the pavement when the brides outside, okay?'

When Marla Jacobs discovers that the vacant shop next to her Little White Weeding Chapel is to become a funeral parlour, she declares and all-out war on new proprietor Gabriel Ryan.

With an army of loyal supporters, she embarks on a campaign to sabotage his reputation and livelihood.

But when she finally meets Gabriel, she realises just how much trouble she's in. With his effortless charm and Celtic good looks, Gabriel begins to form alliances with her so called 'loyal' army and, reluctantly, she finds herself falling under his spell. And destroying him becomes the last thing on her mind....

I'd never heard of Kat French before I picked up this book, I was drawn to the cute cover design to start with and then was intrigued by the books blurb.

Undertaking Love was a fast past read but what's particularly liked about the book was that there was a handful of characters that you got to know really well other than the main two, Marla and Gabe.

Marla originates from America and whilst she all for everyone else falling in love and getting married, she doesn't feel the same applies to her own life, yet this doesn't stop her owing a quaint little chapel that plays host to a vast variety of weddings... Goth and barn dance included.
She has successful been running her business for a few years but goes into total meltdown when she sees the signs going up next door, indicating its to be a funeral parlour... Weddings and funerals eh?

Gabriel is an undertaker, and despite his family's successful funeral business back in Ireland, he's decided to go out alone. From the moment Marla walks in declaring he absolutely must vacate the building because weddings and funerals just won't work, he's smitten.

Over the course of the book there is very much a will they won't they scenario, almost like a Romeo and Juliet story, only with brides and bodies getting in the way.

Marla and her two friends who help run the chapel, Emily and Jonny, set up a petition to get Gabe to leave, from the outset it all goes wrong when Jonny won't let it drop and it goes viral online resulting in the window to the funeral parlour being smashed... There is then the clash of a wedding and funeral at the same time, the one thing they both agreed on trying to avoid.
It takes almost to the end of the book for you to know on whether they get together or not, although it's clear to the reader and the other characters they are mad on each other. Gabe will happily declare his feelings, but Marla refuses to allowe herself to trust her heart.

The sub-plots in the book are just as interesting which is enough to keep you gripped without losing sight that Marla and Gabes story is the real focus.

~Emily and her husband Tom are having troubles trying to conceive a longed for baby. Tom refuses to get help and would rather work away a lot, leaving Em feeling lonely. When Tom chooses work over being home for her birthday, she gets drunk with Gabes best friend, Dan, having a one night stand that leads to pregnancy.
~Dan a typical jack the lad!
~Jonny is very much a bright, loud yet loveable character. His witty one liners had me laughing out loud and it's clear his character is very protective over his friends, and although there's no mention of a partner, the way the book is written I very much felt he was looking for the man of his dreams.
~Melanie, Gabes receptionist, has a major crush on her boss and will quite literally do anything to win her boss over.. She's also the reason for Marlas heartbreak which leads to her getting that little bit closer to Gabe.
~And then there is Dora and Ivor. An elderly couple who are the heart of the little village with a fabulous love story to tell.
Ivor tends to the chapels gardens and Dora cleans for both the chapel and parlour, consequently becoming a go between for the pair!

Each of the sub plot characters all have a story to tell and at times the book had me unexpectedly crying, yet being set in a small village and only having a few characters I felt worked really well with getting their stories linked together.

Undertaking Love has all you would want from a book... Fun and laughter mixed equally with passion and desire, not forgetting emotion too. 
A thoroughly good read that was enjoyed from cover to cover, I wouldn't hesitate giving another book by Kat French a read either! 

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

You Had Me At Hello by Mhairi McFarlane

Rachel and Ben. Ben and Rachel.
It was them against the world. Until it all fell apart.
It's been a decade since they last spoke, but when Rachel bumps into Ben one rainy day, the years melt away.

They'd been partners in crime and the best of friends. But it's clear life has moved on.
Ben is married. Rachel is not.

Yet in that split second, Rachel feels the old friendship return. And along with it, the broken heart she's never been able to mend.

"Very witty and funny... A total gem" ~ Marian Keyes

I'd been sent this book to read from my friend who raved about how good a read it was, and having then looked up a few reviews it was clear I had to make You Had Me At Hello my next review.

If I'm totally honest I found this a little slow to get into, however I think that is just because I'm not a great fan of novels that jump from present to past and back to present again and the first few chapters of You Had Me At Hello did this quite considerably. Once I'd got past that and in to the story it's an absolute delight to read.

Rachel, a court room reporter, is in a relationship with Rhys, in fact they are engaged, yet what Rachel wants for her wedding isnt what Rhys wants, and there doesn't seem to be any compromise. This results in Rachel ending her 13 year old relationship.
She relys heavily on her three best friends from her Uni days.. Mindy, Caroline and Ivor.
The out of the blue, Caroline announces that she saw Ben at the library ~ Ben was Rachel's best friend at uni who disappeared from her life after graduation ~ cue stalker Rachel who happens to "Bump" into him.
Their old friendship returns with banter and laughter as if they had never been apart! 

As the novel unfolds we learn that ten years prior to the pair running in to each other, they had a one night stand with Ben declaring is love for Rachel after three years of being best mates. Unfortunately it doesn't end with a happy ever after as Ben wants to go travelling whilst Rachel has a post grad placement. When Rhys turns up at their grad ball, Ben takes this as a sign that Rachel has made her mind up.
No one ever speaks of their one night again.

That is until, Rachel goes on a date with Simon, a friend of Olivia who happens to be Mrs Ben!
Needless to say it doesn't work out as all she can think about is Ben, and then when the four of them attend the same wedding, Simon stirs trouble by getting Olivia to confront Rachel about sleeping with Ben.

When Ben and Rachel finally talk things through and she reveals her true feelings, Ben pretty much tells her he's going to remain loyal to his wife, that they are moving away from Manchester and requests she doesn't sought him out again.

I genuinely thought at this point that that was it... Rachel and Ben were no longer, not that they were... But as with most chic lits, you always root for the main characters to be as one.

Before the ending the story focuses on Rachel trying to move on with life. And even though this ultimately is a love story, you will have to read it now to see how they end up, there is also a story of great friendships.
Caroline, Mindy and Ivor each help Rachel in her life's troubles in their own quirky ways, and each are there for each other when Caroline discovers her husband is having an affair and through a massive argument between Mindy and Ivor which upsets the groups dynamics.

You Had Me At Hello is brilliantly written. Once I'd got past the back and forth at the beginning of the book I was gripped with Rachel and Ben's story.... I real 'will they, won't they' scenario with lots of added humour and one liners!