Authors I love, Book of the Week, new releases, women's fiction

Book of the Week: The House of Hopes and Dreams

In a change from recent form, it’s not a crime pick this week – but perhaps the pick won’t be a surprise to regular readers with an eye on the new release lists. I’m a long-time Trisha Ashley fan, and she has a new novel out this week and I was lucky enough to have an advance copy sent to me by the publishers. If you follow me on Litsy (I’m @Verity there) you’ll have seen me get excited about this when it arrived and it’s taken a lot of willpower to save it until close to release to read it.

Proof copy of The House of Hopes and Dreams

The House of Hope and Dreams follows Carey and Angel, who’ve been friends since art college, although life has taken them in slightly different directions. At the start of the novel TV interior designer Carey is in hospital recovering after nearly losing his leg after being knocked off his bike. He’s been dumped from his show, but when a lawyer arrives to tell him that he’s inherited a minor historic house in Lancashire it looks like he may have a new project. Angel’s life had been turned upside down after the death of her partner – who she’d been working with at his stained glass company for more than a decade. She’s lost her job and her home, but luckily her skills are exactly what her old friend is looking for and there’s space for her at Mossby. Soon Angel is setting up a workshop so she can repair Mossby’s unique windows and Carey is working on a new TV series about the renovation of the house and the secrets that it’s hiding. But how long will it take the two of them to work out that there’s more to their relationship than just friendship?

If you were to ask me about my book catnip, high on the list are old houses, competency porn (aka heroines who are really good at what they do) and friends to lovers stories, so straight away this ticks a lot of boxes for me. And this is back in a corner of Lancashire that has a lot of old friends from previous visits to TrishaWorld – Carey’s house is just up the road from Middlemoss so you get a few glimpses at old friends from novels gone by. This is a little sadder in the backstory and less funny than some of her other books, but I relaxed happily back into it and although I always had a very fair idea where everything was going, it was an enjoyable ride to get there.

If you’re very familiar with Ashley’s books (and I speak as someone who has read everything she’s published except her historical novel) then this may feel a bit like a Greatest Hits album – which I found a bit of a mixed blessing. But I think there’s a lot here for newer fans to love, especially people who’ve only started reading her in her last couple of novels and haven’t come across this part of her imaginary corner of England before. And they’ll be able to go away and discover more of it with the side characters in this, which in turn may lead them to my absolute favour of Ashley’s novels, A Winter’s Tale (another story about an old house with secrets) .

The House of Hopes and Dreams is out on Thursday – you should be able to find it in supermarkets (that’s where I picked up my first Trisha) and bookshops, or if you can’t wait here are the preorder links for Amazon and Kindle. I’ll be buying one too – because my preview copy doesn’t have the recipes in the back!

if you want to go and read some of my previous ramblings about Trisha’s world, try here, here and here.

Happy reading!

Authors I love, new releases

Book of the Week: The Little Teashop of Lost and Found

This week’s BotW is the latest from long-time auto-buy author of mine, Trisha Ashley.  If you’ve been here a while this choice will not surprise, you because you’ll know that I’m a big Trisha Ashley fan.  I’m on her mailing list, I go to her London readers’ tea party, I keep her books on the special downstairs bookshelf of books I might need to have handy to read again AND I have copies of most of them on Kindle.  So you can imagine how delighted I was when I got an advance readers copy of her new book The Little Teashop of Lost and Found – and how much willpower it took not to squeal all over the place, read it straight away and then immediately blog about it.  But I have been restrained.  Very.  It helped that I had to pack all the book piles away for the fireplace work – and that they still haven’t been properly unpacked.  It helped that I knew I had nights coming right before it was due out and that this would be the perfect book to save as a post-nights* treat to myself.  But still.  Points for will power for waiting to read it so that I could post this the week that it comes out.  Anyway, you want to hear about the book, not about my crazy fangirling, so here we go.

Trisha Ashley's Little Teashop of Lost and Found and some daffodils.
Check out my attempt at pretty photography. I like the contrast of the daffodils and the book cover.

The Little Teashop of Lost and Found tells the story of Alice, abandoned on the moors above Haworth as a baby, adopted and then abandoned again in various ways by various people as she grows up into adulthood.  Always feeling like an outsider, after her latest setback she buys a rundown cafe in Haworth in the hope that being close to where she was found might help her find the home and the family that she’s been searching and longing for.  While she’s setting up her tea emporium – and writing her book – she makes friends and starts to try and unravel the mystery of who she really is.  But will she get her happily ever after?

Trisha Ashley’s heroines tend to be looking for a second chance at love and have tragedy in their past – and Alice is no exception.**  She’s had so many knock backs and tragedies that it’s a wonder she’s still in any way optimistic about the future.  And life in Haworth isn’t plain sailing at first, although she soon acquires a surrogate family to help her along.  I liked the interludes with extracts from the dark and twisted fairy tale that Alice is writing and I loved the secondary characters – the Giddings family, Lola and the rude waitresses with the hearts of gold are all brilliant.  And I really liked the other intercut sections that I can’t talk about without giving too much of the plot away – they’re so cleverly done that I had to go back and reread some of them at the end in shock to check I hadn’t missed something earlier!

This is warm, witty and uplifting as well as being a great slow-burn romance where the reader and every one else around the heroine can see what’s going on so much more clearly than she can.  This is also (obviously) set in Yorkshire rather than the more traditional Trisha-world of Lancashire but there are some familiar faces here despite that.  If you’ve read the novella Finding Mr Rochester you’ll spot some characters from there – in fact I need to go back and read it again to see exactly how many characters from that pop up in this.

The Little Teashop of Lost and Found is out in hardback on Thursday (the 9th) and you can get your copy from Amazon (for a bargainous £6.99 at time of writing), Waterstones and Foyles or buy it on Kindle or Kobo.  The paperback isn’t out until June, but you can pre-order that from AmazonWaterstones and Foyles too.  I need to get myself a copy too – because the ARC doesn’t have all the recipes in the back!

Happy Reading!

*Proof reading this was a real hoot – I wrote this when I was still quite nightshift-brainy and when I came back to check it, well lets just say it was a haven for unfinished sentences, typos and mismatched tenses.  I think I’ve fixed them all, but hey, if a few have crept through, I’m sorry!

**In fact I think the heroine’s backstories are getting sadder – Tabby from Christmas Cracker had been in jail (she was someone else’s dupe), Cally in Wish Upon a Star had a seriously-ill daughter, Izzy in Creature Comforts had been involved in a serious car crash, now Alice abandoned at birth.  I don’t know how the books still end up being so cheerful and uplifting!

reviews

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!

Book of the Week, Chick lit, new releases, romance

Book of the Week: A Christmas Cracker

It will be absolutely no surprise to you regular readers that this week’s BotW is Trisha Ashley’s latest – A Christmas Cracker. You can see my previous musings on her work herehere and briefly here. I’m not usually a Christmas book in October kind of person (although I seem to have read a few of them already this year) but I’m always read to make an exception for Trisha.  Her books are totally my catnip.  Warm and humourous, with heroines on journeys and a variety of different types of heros.  Her heroines have usually made had problems in their love lives before – whether through picking Bad Men or through mistakes and misunderstandings.  I always think of them as second chance romances (as in slightly older people, and not their first love affair), but I know that the “proper” definition of that trope is the “we met when we were young but it didn’t work out, but now we’re trying again” type of story, although Trisha has written a couple of those and they’re really very good.

Why can I never get a good photo of a book with foil lettering on the cover?
The heroine of A Christmas Cracker is Tabby.  She’s ended up doing prison time for a crime she didn’t commit, her fiance has dumped her and given her cat away, one of her friends lied about her in court and her life is generally in tatters.  Then she gets a second chance from Mercy.  She’s been working in Africa for years, but has retired and come back to try and rescue the family cracker business, which is floundering.  She thinks that Tabby could be the breath of fresh air that it needs to save it from the chop.  But Mercy’s nephew Randall think’s Tabby is a con-woman and out for what she can get – he’s got his own plans for Marwood’s Christmas Crackers and he’s watching her like a hawk…

I’m hoping that you’ve read that and thought – “Gosh that sounds generally delightful and festive too” – and it really is (if you didn’t, I’m sorry – I haven’t done it justice).  Tabby is a wonderful and relatable heroine.  I was initially sceptical about a lead character who starts off the book in the clink, but I shouldn’t have doubted Trisha – it’s a masterstroke.  Trisha Ashley’s books have a long history of giving us quirky/fun older/elderly lady characters too (Great Aunt’s Hebe and Ottie in A Winter’s Tale, Mad Aunt Debo in Creature Comforts, I could go on) and Mercy is another great addition to the list – she’s a bundle of energy in light-up trainers who sees the best in everyone and will give hospitality to anyone.

Honestly, I can’t say enough good things about A Christmas Cracker – I got an e-copy via NetGalley – but I went out at the weekend to buy myself an actual copy as well.  And not just because I have all her other books in paperback (and most of them in ebook as well) and I have a thing about sets and completion, but because I wanted to read it again, in a proper book, so I can pick out my favourite scenes so I know where they are in the book so I can go back and read them again.

If you only read one Christmas book this year (or before December at any rate) make this it.  It should be everywhere – Tesco were selling it for a very special price of £2 at the weekend (so cheap that I almost wanted to go and buy it somewhere else in case it meant the author royalties would be smaller) and I’d expect it to be all over the place in the other supermarkets and bookshops.  If I’ve sold it to you as being so good that you can’t wait to go to a shop (and you wouldn’t be wrong), the Kindle and Kobo editions are £2.99 at time of writing. Prices aren’t quite as special for the paperback at the online retailers, but here are the Amazon, Waterstones and Foyles links just in case.

Book of the Week, books, Chick lit, new releases, reviews

Book of the Week: Creature Comforts

Regular readers to the blog will be unsurprised to discover that this week’s BotW is the new novel from Trisha Ashley.  The first review on this blog (and one of the earliest posts) was of her last book Every Woman for Herself  and I’ve been waiting eagerly for Creature Comforts ever since. And I managed to control myself – and read the book across three days, rather in one sitting.

Creature Comforts tells the story of Izzy, who returns to her childhood home of Halfhidden, after years travelling around the world.  She’s just broken up with her fiancé Kieran and is looking for answers about a tragic accident she was involved in as a teenager.  On top of that, she’s starting a new business and helping her friends with a plan to regenerate the village by getting more tourists in.  And her aunt’s dog rescue centre is in a spot of bother – with money and with the new owner of the estate that owns the land…

I love the corner of Lancashire that Trisha Ashley has created – and Halfhidden is a great addition to it.  I liked the dynamics of Izzy and her gang of friends – and there’s some fun supporting characters (as usual) who are quirky in a non-irritating way.  The plot’s a good one too – as Izzy tries to discover what happened that fateful night.  Trisha’s heroines always have a bit of baggage behind them to overcome – and I liked that Izzy’s wasn’t a husband/ex-partner as it so often is with books in this sort of genre.  I also really empathised over her ex-fiancé – who reminded me of one of my ex-boyfriends* with his attitude towards her and her life.

As usual, after reading on of Trisha’s books, I wanted to go back and read the earlier ones – this is partly because there are always little references to them, enabling you to catch a glimpse of what’s going on with some of your old friends, and reminding you how much you enjoyed reading about their lives.

Creature Comforts is Trisha’s first book to get a hardback release – you can buy it on Amazon, Waterstones, Foyles and hopefully in stores too.  The Kindle edition is available too and you can pre-order the paperback too if you can control yourself and wait until June.

 

*Although my exboyfriend didn’t cause me any of the trouble that Kieran causes Izzy!

fiction, new releases, reviews, romance

Book review: Every Woman for Herself

Now I’ll start off by saying that I’m a huge fan of Trisha Ashley.  I was going to do an “Authors I Love” post on her this week – but I thought that her latest novel deserved a post all of it’s very own.  But expect to see more about my love of all books Trisha in the near future.

Every Woman for Herself
This really doesn’t do justice to the glittery cover of the latest addition to my Trisha Ashley collection….

Every Woman for Herself is actually one of her older novels – which has been out of print for some years and which I hadn’t been able to track down via a library (or find for a reasonable price secondhand) – I think the only other one of her books that I haven’t read now is Lord Rayven’s Revenge.  In her newsletter (yes I’m that sort of fan) she says it’s one of her favourite literary babies and I can see why.  Sometimes when you read an early book from a favourite author it can be a disappointment – because the style that you love hasn’t developed yet, but the familiar Trisha Ashley voice is well in evidence here.  Charlie’s is as engaging, fun and quirky as her later heroines – and her inner monologue is possibly even funnier.

At the start of the book Charlie’s husband announces he wants a divorce and the book tells the story of her return to her childhood home to refresh and regroup following that bombshell and what I shall call An Unfortunate Incident.  Her extended family is full of the eccentric characters that Trisha Ashley writes so well and they all come vividly to life as you read.

There are some other familiar ingredients are present and correct in Every Woman for Herself – a bit of magic-cum-witchcraft, a handsome and brooding romantic lead, a setting that’s almost a character in itself and of course a heroine who doesn’t realise what’s under her nose until after you do – but never in an annoying or obvious way.  And after reading Every Woman… I’ve finally found out the origin of Skint Old Northern Woman magazine which has cropped up in every (I think) book since as well as being the name of Trisha’s own newsletter.

I loved this book – I started reading it yesterday evening (the day it came out) and then couldn’t put it down on either on the train to work – or the way home and finished it about 10 minutes before I pulled into my station.  The only downside is that now it’s over too soon (I have no self-control in these matters – I haven’t managed to ration a book I’m enjoying yet) and now I have a long wait for her next book.  But I’m sure I’ll be re-reading this one before then.

I was thrilled to see that Avon were giving this a good old plug on their twitter account in the run up to publication – so I hope this does really well and sells lots and lots of copies.

Every Woman for Herself is available all over the place including the supermarkets and  Foyles (who I link to even though they’re not the cheapest for this type of book because I love the name of their loyalty scheme – Foyalty) and on Kindle.  I’ve managed to buy two copies (don’t tell The Boy – one is going back…) that’s how much I like Trisha Ashley books – and of course a demonstration of the fact I don’t keep track of what I’ve pre-ordered….

Find Trisha Ashley’s website here or her Facebook here and she tweets as @trishaashley