books, romance

Valentine’s Day bonus post

I know – two posts in two days.  I’m spoiling you.  But I couldn’t let Valentines Day go past without mentioning some of my favourite romantic books.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

I don’t care about all the posts about how you wouldn’t actually want to be with Mr Darcy in real life because I love this book.  I started reading my mum’s copy of the book as soon as I’d finished watching the first part of the 1995 BBC adaptation of it and I adored it. I was in the tail-end of primary school and just flat-out loved Lizzy.  My TV tie-in copy is much loved and I read it a lot.  Read it and fall in love with Lizzy as much as you do with Darcy.  And he grows as a person people.  Everyone’s allowed to make a mistake and compared to some of the stuff romance novel heros have in their past, being a bit stuck up and arrogant is not the biggest problem ever!

These Old Shades by Georgette Heyer

And a prime example of how Darcy could be so much worse is the Duke of Avon.  Justin’s nickname is Satanas.  You’re told he’s lost a fortune at the gaming tables and then won back someone elses – someone who then killed themselves.  He kidnapped a woman to try to force her to marry him.  But I defy you not to be rooting for him as he turns Leon the page into Leonie the lady and restores her to her place in eighteenth century French High Society.  And the way he achieves it isn’t exactly all hearts and flowers (although it is totally deserved).  One of my favourite romance tropes is I’m not good enough for him/her and this is just the perfect example of that.  And then when you’re done falling in love with Big Bad Justin, read Devil’s Cub and meet his son Dominic – mad, bad and dangerous to know and watch prim and proper Mary win his heart.  He doesn’t think he’s good enough either.  Swoon.

Stately Pursuits by Katie Fforde

Still my favourite Fforde novel (see my love letter to Fforde here), and you may start to detect a theme in my heros here.  Connor is tall, dark, brooding and moody.  Hetty’s mum’s sent her to look after Great Uncle Samuel’s stately home.  Hetty wants to save it, Connor thinks selling it is the best solution.  Cue fireworks of two different types.  If you like your heros a little bit more beta, try Fforde’s Flora’s Lot and Charles the auctioneer.  He’s engaged and thinks Flora is pushy. She thinks he’s uptight and change resistant.  Another of my favourite tropes – I hate you, I hate you, I can’t stop thinking about your hair as Sarah McLean of Smart Bitches would say.

Busman’s Honeymoon by Dorothy L Sayers

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  This is the most romantic detective story ever.  After 3 books of angst and tension, Peter and Harriet are finally married.  But a body turns up at their honeymoon dream house and unless they can figure out who did it Harriet is worried that Peter will be haunted by it forever.  You’ll appreciate it most if you’ve read the other three books first, but once you have you’ll come back to it again and again.  I’ve listened to it once this week on audiobook already.  If you need more convincing I wrote a whole post about the wonders of Peter in general and Peter and Harriet in particular.

And Finally…

And if this still isn’t quite enough romance for you, try Eloisa James Duchess by Night featuring another of my favourite tropes – girls dressed as boys (see also the aforementioned These Old Shades) or Sarah MacLean’s Nine Rules to Break when Romancing a Rake (I would suggest Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover but that’s the end of a series and a big spoiler for the earlier books) which is another great trope (heroine needs to learn about love, asks rakish man to teach her) or a bit of Julia Quinn.  Try not to get hooked.  American-import romance can be an expensive habit.


Christmas (themed) Books!

Here it is, slightly later than planned (don’t ask), the Christmas-themed book post!  It’s Christmas Eve, I’ve finished work for Christmas and I’ve read my way through a whole stack of Christmas-themed reading to come up with some top recommendations for you to read on your Christmas break.  As this is now too late to go to the shops, tonight’s links are to Kindle – but you can click through from that to buy the paperback if you want to.  Or you can pick them up in the scrum at the Supermarket on Boxing Day.

paperback christmas books
For once I have some of my recommendations in paperback!

Snowed in for Christmas by Clare Sandy

Asta is back in Ireland for the first time since she fled with a secret years ago.  Now the secret is sixteen and desperate to know about her family.  Asta was hoping to be in and out in a flash, but ends up snowed in with her madcap extended family.  Will she gets the answers that she needs or will her trip home bring more complications?

I think this is my favourite of the bunch – it might well have been BotW last week if it wasn’t for the fact that I wanted to feature it in this! Clare Sandy has featured on this blog before (with A Very Big House in the Country and What Would Mary Berry Do?) and this is such a joy.  I was trying to sum this up and I came up with Ballykissangel meets Marian Keyes and your favourite romantic comedy movie.  This book is wickedly funny but also touching and paints a vivid picture both of Asta’s London life and the village in Ireland.  It is so much fun – and very Christmassy – but without feeling contrived or saccharine.  It is a fabulous story that happens to be set at Christmas.

Make a Christmas Wish by Julia Williams

Last Christmas Livvy was knocked over in the supermarket car park and now she’s dead. But she’s not ready to let her husband and her son go, so she’s hovering on the edge of the afterlife – fuming over her husband’s new girlfriend and fretting about whether her son’s coping without her.  When she gets a last chance to make it right, will she take it – and what is right anyway?

This is so clever.  I started it thinking it wasn’t going to be my sort of book and then got totally sucked in.  I found Livvy quite a tough character to like, but I was totally rooting for her husband Adam and her son Joe.  This is not a sweet and fluffy Christmas book – it’s funny, but it made me cry too. I had moments of wondering whether it would all turn out right (in my opinion) in the end, but when I got to the end I had that warm and fuzzy feeling inside that you get from a good story well told.

Other top tips – I’ve already mentioned Trisha Ashley’s latest A Christmas Cracker on the blog, but I thought it was worth repeating that this is a great festive read – warm and witty and romantic. I’ve got Jenny Colgan’s latest (in paperback anyway) A Christmas Surprise waiting for me still – it’s the third Rosie Hopkins book.  And there’s my Novelicious colleague Cressida McLoughlin’s A Christmas Tail which I read through the year as the four part Primrose Terrace series.  For some Christmas crime, try Mavis Doriel Hay’s recently republished the Santa Klaus Murder or go equally golden age with a dose of Inspector Alleyn with Ngaio Marsh’s Tied up in Tinsel (which I can only find on Kindle as an omnibus with Clutch of Constables and When in Rome).

Shorter reads

If you want something a bit shorter but still festive, there’s a bunch of excellent short stories and novellas too.  Some of my favourites were revisiting characters from other books that I’d read earlier in the year. So you can see what happened next to the Winter family in Harriet Evans’ A Winterfold Christmas or you can catch-up with the residents of Hazy Hassocks in Christina Jones’s Mitzi’s Midwinter Wedding.  There’s also a new Christmas short from Katie Fforde – A Christmas in Disguise – which I enjoyed, but wanted to be longer.  And if you’ve been following the residents of Cherry Pie Island all year, then the final part of that, Four Weddings and A White Christmas is out as well (I’m halfway through it!).  There’s also the final part of Cathy Bramley’s Wickham Hall series White Christmas.  And don’t forget Silent Nights – the short crime story collection that was BotW a few weeks back.

And there you are.  Have a happy Christmas and I hope you all get what you wished for.  I’m back at work at 6am on Boxing Day, please think of me as you’re waking up with your hangover!

Disclosure:  I bought my own copy of all of the books and novellas in this post except for: Silent Nights and The Santa Klaus Murder which came via NetGalley, Snowed in for Christmas which I was sent by the author and Make A Christmas Wish which I won in a twitter competition.  In addition I received the Trisha Ashley via NetGalley – but bought myself a copy as well!

Authors I love, romance

Authors I Love: Katie Fforde


Shelf of Katie Fforde books
Note the colour gradation that my matchy-matchy problem forces me into

I discovered Katie Fforde in my final year at university – when I was stressed, overworked and severely in need of relaxation.  At the time I’d been dealing with the stress by watching a lot of DVDs (I had an unlimited LoveFilm membership and boy was I using it) because as a History and French student I was doing a lot of reading for my courses and reading didn’t seem like much of a treat!  I was also working on a very limited budget – and I was trying not to buy books.  I picked up my first Katie Fforde (Paradise Fields I think) at York Central Library – on a trip to borrow DVDs – and I was hooked.  I knew from the start that these would be books that I would re-read over and over and my budget went out the window as I started buying up her back catalogue.  As it turns out Paradise Fields is possibly my least favourite of her books now I’ve read the lot – and I think it is the only one that I don’t own – and I did buy myself a copy over the internet but it was the wrong size* and so I got rid of it.

There is a bit of a formula to them – and you’re not exactly going to have trouble working out who the heroine is going to end up with (or at least you’re not once you’ve read a few of them) but they’re brilliantly relaxing reading, which will leave you with a smile on your face and a warm and fuzzy feeling inside.

A book
Stately Pursuits by Katie Fforde

If I had to pick a favourite, it would be Stately Pursuits.  It has my favourite type of heroine – Hetty’s fairly close to the age I was when I first read the book (nearly a decade ago – crikey!) and I like my male leads to come from the grumpy on the outside but with a soft centre mould.  Connor’s dilapidated stately home – which Hetty is sent to house sit adds to the books charm for me – I love books with houses as a character, that’s why Trisha Ashley’s A Winter’s Tale has been my favourite of hers for so long (although I think I like her “new” one Every Woman for Herself nearly as much).

Like Hetty, many of Fforde’s heroines have (or get thrown into) interesting jobs – in another of my favourites, Flora in Flora’s Lot inherits a share in a struggling auction house and fights to save it (whilst falling in love), but there’s also wedding planners, artists, cooks on canal boat restaurants and interior designers.  Another of my favourite books is Thyme Out – where Perdita, the salad gardener, ends up supplying the restaurant owned by her ex-husband and then working with him rather closer on a TV series.

For me Fforde’s books are great examples of the cozy romance genre – they’re not raunchy or rude and they won’t make you blush on the train – they are entertaining and romantic and do exactly what it says on the tin – what more can you ask for?!

You can find Katie Fforde’s back catalogue in any good bookshop – like Foyles – and her new books are usually stocked by the supermarkets in their multibuy promotions and they sometimes have some of the older ones too.

* I’m planning a post about my OCD tendencies when it comes to book jackets and arranging my shelves.  But trust me when I say that I really don’t like it when books by the same author aren’t the same size and cover design!

new releases, reviews, romance

Book review: The Perfect Match

I was offered an e-copy of this book in return for an honest review – and as you know, I’m never influenced by the fact that the book was free when I’m writing my thoughts on it.

So, I’ve been reading Katie Fforde’s books for about a decade now – and have settled into a nice pattern of buying her latest paperback as soon as it comes out.  Now this review of her latest hardback means that I’m out of sync with her paperback releases, but it was a sacrifice I was more than willing to make…

Bella, the heroine of The Perfect Match, is an estate agent who moved in with her godmother three years ago, when she moved towns because she’d fallen in love with a man she couldn’t have.  She’s now seeing Nevil – her boss – who wants to take their relationship to the next level.  But he’s been growing increasingly secretive and something doesn’t quite feel right to Bella about the whole situation.  Then when the man she was running away from returns to her life, her questions really start to mount up.

One of the things I particularly like about Katie Fforde’s books (and I am planning an Authors I Love post on her) is that while they’re all love stories, the heroines always have such interesting jobs – that Fforde seems to have researched really thoroughly.  Bella is no exception to this – she’s just the sort of estate agent you would like to have.  She doesn’t seem to be out for her commission – but is always trying to find the perfect house for her clients.  Like a lot of Fforde women, she has a kind heart and does her best to help people (but without being sickly or do-goody) and you really do want her to find a “Perfect Match” of her own (sorry, terrible pun, but it had to be done).

Nevil is obviously wrong for Bella – and my only quibbles with the book were that I would have liked Bella to have stood up to him more, rather than being trampled over and letting him run her down and I would like to have seen more of his eventual comeuppance.  But I did enjoy the book – in fact I was actually quite grumpy when my train was on time and I had to stop reading it and go to work!  I particularly liked the subplot with Bella’s godmother and her love life, which was sweet and realistic portrayal of love later in life which rang true without being either twee or pensioners-do-Fifty-Shades.

It’s not my favourite of Katie Fforde’s books – there’s not enough of Dominic in this book for it to reach the giddy heights of my favourites like Stately Pursuits and Flora’s Lot, but it’s still a fun romantic read which I’m sure will be very popular on the beach this summer and I’d happily recommend to people who like a good light romantic read. Now all I’ve got to do is twiddle my thumbs (or start re-reading) until her next one comes out!