Wednesday 22 November 2023

Guest Review: Winter at the Dog and Duck by Jill Steeples

Ellie Browne has left behind her high-flying job in London to return to the charming Buckinghamshire village of Little Leyton.

Working shifts at the Dog and Duck pub and running her own doggy-daycare business, Ellie's looking for a simpler way of life in this idyllic English setting.

But Little Leyton's landscape is changing: Johnny Tay, Ellie's ex, wants to pick up where they left off; sultry property developer Max Golding has moved into the village and is ruffling feathers; and rumour has it that the pub, which holds a special place in Ellie's heart, might be sold. Suddenly, life's looking a whole lot more complicated.... Can Ellie overcome all the challenges to finally find her one true love?

Review: This is the first book in a series from Jill Steeples featuring the Dog and Duck, the thriving pub in a small English village. I am new to this author, but was attracted to what sounds like a romantic holiday read.

The story centres on Ellie Browne, who has returned to the Buckinghamshire village of Little Leyton after living and working in London for a few years. Taking a break from her successful career in accountancy, she is currently working at the local pub, the Dog and Duck, and also building up her dog-walking business. With her parents spending a few months abroad, Ellie is living alone in the family cottage. Her ex-boyfriend, Johnny, seems keen to rekindle their relationship, but she is not sure this is a good idea. Meanwhile, she has met newcomer to the village property developer Max Golding, and there is a definite attraction between the two of them. When there is a rumour of doubts over the future of the Dog and Duck, Ellie is concerned not just for her job but for the community as a whole. With life becoming more complicated and suspicions that Max might not be totally honest with her, Ellie begins to consider where her future lies.

I have very much enjoyed this book and would recommend it to those who enjoy a romance with a festive theme; it is not strictly speaking a Christmas story, but it has a festive feel, especially towards the end. I loved the central players in the story; both Ellie and Max were strong characters, not afraid to reveal their feelings. The author cleverly introduces doubts into the reader’s and Ellie’s mind regarding the motives and character of Max in particular, and I was never very sure how things were going to turn out. The village of Little Leyton sounds very pretty and it was easy to picture it with the pub very much central to activities. There are three more stories in this series for readers wanting to follow the fortunes of Ellie and indeed the pub.

To order your copy now, just click here!

Wednesday 15 November 2023

Guest Review: Four Weddings and a Christmas by Phillipa Ashley

Can the spirit of Christmas reignite an old flame?

With her thriving business Cottage Angels, Freya Bolton prepares the Lake District’s holiday homes for Christmas visitors. It’s her job to think of everything, from cinnamon-scented candles to tasteful decorations and hampers of seasonal treats.

If only her love life were such a success… After being burned by past relationships, she’s now determined to steer clear of love for good.

So when she bumps into gorgeous – and single – ex-boyfriend Travis, a no-strings festive fling seems perfect.

But when her feelings for him begin to develop, is she on track for another romantic calamity? Or could this Christmas give her the gift of true love?

Review: Phillipa Ashley is one of my ‘go-to’ authors. For me, she always brings to life the characters and places in her books. I have enjoyed many a trip to Cornwall through her writing. This year, Phillipa’s Christmas book is a romance set once again in the Lake District, acknowledged as one of the prettiest areas of the UK, and one with which I am very familiar. The book has a wonderfully Christmassy cover, promising lots of snow and fun.

The story features Freya Bolton, born and bred in the Lake District and owner of a company that prepares holiday homes in the area for visitors. With her attention to detail and excellent customer service, she has built up a successful business. As she is busy putting the finishing touches to one cottage, ready for Christmas, she is startled to find that the incoming tenant is someone she knows well - her former fiancé and now renowned photographer, Travis Marshall, who has come back home to open a business of his own. As the days pass, it appears that there is still a strong attraction between them, and Freya suggests a secret relationship with no commitments. However, things are not that simple, as feelings develop in both of them and it seems this may be more than just a fling.

I really enjoyed this trip to the Lake District. The book was full of interesting characters and well-described settings. Freya and Travis were both likeable people for whom the reader is bound to want a happy ending, although, of course, there were many bumps in the road along the way. I admired their dedication to their businesses, but there was no denying the attraction between them. In addition to the central story, there were other interesting subplots involving Freya and Travis’s families and friends, including a few weddings, as the title suggests, and lots of Christmas-themed events. This is a lovely, light and heart-warming festive book, particularly perfect for reading by the fire on a cold wintry day.

To order your copy now, just click here!

Thursday 9 November 2023

October 2023 Wrap Up: I Was Definitely Overly Ambitious With My TBR This Month!

 Well here's what I read in October, I was so hopeful I would read loads in the last couple of weeks of term and then loads more on my flights but alas, I forgot how tired I would be in both those times and so ended up only watching movies/napping on the flights and listening to just one audiobook in that last week of term despite my best efforts!


Physical Books


Wednesday 8 November 2023

Guest Review: Christmas at the Highland Flower Shop by Lucy Coleman

Four months. One impossible task. It's time to save Christmas at The Highland Flower Shop...

Bella Reed has worked at The Highland Flower Shop ever since she left college and now her Aunt Jane has handed the keys and the lease over to her. With the business under her reign, Bella is ready to hit the ground running - until she's dealt a massive blow. They're being evicted.

When dashing businessman Maverick McIntyre turns up in Fort William, Bella discovers the reason they're being kicked out. He has no intention of honouring a ridiculous deal his father made many years ago.

As Maverick and Bella lock horns, they both begin to see different sides to one another and before long the two strike up the most unexpected of friendships. Bella knows she has to keep business separate, but when her head and her heart are saying two different things, life starts to get complicated.

Review: Although Lucy Coleman is a prolific author, I have somehow read only a few of her books. This one caught my eye immediately, with its bright wintry cover and subject matter of a Christmas romance in the highlands of Scotland. The book is set in the Highland Flower Shop, which is located in Fort William, a town sitting at the foot of Ben Nevis.

The story concerns Bella Reed, who has suddenly become the owner of the flower shop where she worked for her aunt for many years. As well as the challenge of becoming responsible for the business and its staff, Bella is faced with the shocking discovery that the building they lease is being sold and, unless an alternative solution can be found, they are going to need to find new premises. She must deal with Maverick McIntyre, son of the man who set up her aunt’s lease, but he is a hard businessman, and the pair don’t hit it off. However, after a few meetings, Bella and Maverick begin to warm to each other, which makes life hard for both of them as they have to remember that business is business while their hearts are telling them otherwise.

I very much enjoyed this gentle Christmas romance. The story has a wonderful setting and some lovely, warm characters. I thought Bella was a remarkably strong business woman, given her age and lack of experience in taking responsibility for running things, and I was cheering her on all the way. I was glad that she was faced with an adversary who wasn’t quite as gruff as he appeared; in fact, he was a perfect gentleman and very handsome with it. I think this makes a marvellous book to read this Christmas, and it would make a perfect gift for readers who enjoy romantic fiction.

To order your copy now, just click here!

Tuesday 7 November 2023

Top Ten Tuesday: Book Titles That Would Make Great Headlines!


Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together. 

I love this list! Let me know what you think in comments or if you have any to add...

Monday 6 November 2023

November 2023 TBR: Nonfiction and Netgalley Reads!

 It's November which is always an exciting month for me because it is an excuse to read some non-fiction, not that I need the excuse. It is always Netgalley November which is when we try and read items from our Netgalley shelves which we know we do tend to neglect sometimes! I have half and half in my TBR this month, a few leftovers from last month and I am excited to share everything I want to read with you. Please do let me know in comments what you're planning on reading this month!

Here's what I have to choose from:

Nonfiction TBR

Netgalley books I still need to read

Wednesday 1 November 2023

Guest Review: Midnight at the Christmas Bookshop by Jenny Colgan

Carmen is at a loose end. Her gorgeous bookshop is the filming site of a cheesy Christmas movie, she's been ousted from her sister's house, and the love of her life has just flown thousands of miles away. It's threatening to be a very unjolly Christmas indeed!

But when the elderly owner of the shop comes to Carmen with a Christmas wish that threatens to never come true, Carmen knows she must buckle down to get the funds to save not only his trip, but the shop itself. While fending off a shady tatt-selling businessman, Carmen discovers wonders to the shop she could have never imagined, and opens a labyrinth of bookish backrooms for the customers to get lost in.

With her deadline looming, it might take more than a fresh coat of paint to solve Carmen's problems. But with the help of their neighbours, her nieces and nephew, and a very distractingly cute male nanny, Carmen might just pull her greatest magic trick yet...

Review: This book is a sequel to The Christmas Bookshop by the same author. Although it is not absolutely necessary to have read the first book, I think that it increases the enjoyment of this storyline to know what transpired previously. The story in both cases is set in an ancient bookshop in Edinburgh, owned and run by an eccentric elderly gentleman, now with the assistance of the heroine of the tale, who is trying to turn it into a profit-making business without spoiling its quaint ambience. I listened to the audio version of the book, read ably by one of my favourite narrators.

In this story, the reader catches up with Carmen, still trying to come up with ideas to increase the profitability of the Christmas Bookshop, but now with extra pressure on her to bring in some  more income, as the shop’s owner wants to go on a very special, and very expensive, expedition. It looks increasingly likely that he may have to sell the shop to an unscrupulous businessman who would like to use it to cater to tourists by selling tatty souvenirs. To add to Carmen’s woes, she has a film crew making a Christmas movie on the premises, her sister has turfed her out of her basement to make way for the new nanny and her boyfriend has set off for the Amazon on a project lasting at least 6 months. All this with Christmas fast approaching. Things begin to look up with the discovery of what lies at the rear of the bookshop, always shut off until now; customers now have access to all sorts of wonders, and start to flood in like never before. It looks as if Carmen might just be able to send her boss off on his trip of a lifetime, when the local shopkeepers and her family give her a helping hand. If only the love of her life would return as well.

I throughly enjoyed returning to the Christmas Bookshop and catching up with Carmen and her family. The story is told with Jenny Colgan’s trademark humour combined with more serious moments. As I expect when reading one of her books, the story is populated with colourful characters and wonderful situations. Among them, Carmen’s sister is once again a contradiction, wanting to disapprove of her sister while also loving her and wanting the best for her. I loved Carmen’s nieces and nephews and their often hilarious interactions with their aunt. A character who definitely stood out in this story was the children’s new nanny, who turned out to be a red-headed man with quite a personality and a wicked sense of humour, but not really a fitting replacement for Carmen’s absent boyfriend. As with the previous book about Carmen and the bookshop, there are lots of descriptions of the city of Edinburgh readying itself for Christmas, bringing the setting to life for the reader. In summary, for me, this is a really entertaining book with a strong festive theme which I can recommend to all.

To order your copy now, just click here!