Monday, 31 July 2017

Blog Tour: Jenny Sparrow Knows the Future by Melissa Pimentel

Jenny Sparrow can tell you her future:

1. Meet soulmate at 25 
2. Move in with him
3. Marry him this year . . . 

According to the plan Jenny made at thirteen, it's time for her to get married. But when her boyfriend proposes a break instead of a wedding, a girls' weekend in Vegas is the only solution . . . until she wakes up in a stranger's bed, and discovers that this is the year she gets married - to the wrong man.

Jenny wants a quick divorce and her old boyfriend back.

But what if her accidental husband has other ideas?

If you're looking for a quick, fun summer read then Jenny Sparrow Knows the Future is the book for you. I raced through it in a single day and am already on the lookout for more Melissa Pimentel novels!

The plot of Jenny Sparrow is a classic one.. girl wakes up in Vegas married to the wrong guy. Or is he the wrong guy? Jenny is an avid list maker. Obsessed by a life plan she made when she was thirteen she's one proposal away from hitting her next target - get married at thirty one. Suddenly Jenny finds herself in a situation she didn't envisage, With two men now in her life Jenny must choose between sticking to her plan or taking a chance on the unknown.

Jenny Sparrow is cosy chick-lit at it's best. Give or take a few little twists you know where the story is headed, so you can curl up and enjoy the ride. The descriptions of the settings, London in particular, are really well done and bring the story to life. I'm very interested to know whether the restaurants and bars Jenny and Jackson visited actually exist!

Christopher and Jackson are two very different men, but equally loveable, and whilst I knew who I wanted Jenny to end up with I didn't want the other guy to get hurt. Jenny's best friend Isla is a whirlwind deserving of a novel of her own. Crazy and reckless, yet talented and intelligent, she's the sort of friend everyone wishes they had in their lives.

Jenny herself is a woman who has been damaged by her past. As the story progresses we learn more about her upbringing, and discover just why it is that she's so obsessed with order and control. As she is pushed further out of her comfort zone we see a braver side of her character come out, and as a result she changes for the better.

Full of humour and heart Jenny Sparrow Knows the Future a quirky, witty modern romance.

**Thanks to Olivia Thomas at Penguin Random House for providing a copy of this book in exchange for a review as part of a blog tour!**

Friday, 14 July 2017

Blog Tour: Summer's Lease by Carrie Elks

Cesca Shakespeare has hit rock bottom. Six years after the play she wrote bombed at the box office, she’s unable to hold down a job, keep an apartment, and worst of all her family have no idea how far she’s fallen. So when her fairy Godfather offers her the use of his friend’s Italian villa for the summer, she grudgingly agrees to try writing a new play. That’s before she finds out the house belongs to her arch-nemesis, Sam Carlton. 

When Hollywood heart-throb Sam Carlton sees his name splashed across a gossip rag, all he wants to do is hide. That’s how he finds himself travelling to Italy, deciding to spend the summer in his family’s empty villa on Lake Como. Except when he arrives it isn’t as empty as he’d hoped.Over the course of the hot Italian summer, Cesca and Sam have to come to terms with their pasts. What begins as a tentative friendship quickly grows into an intense attraction – and then a scorching fling. But they can’t hide from reality forever . . . as their different worlds collide, Sam and Cesca face a choice: is this just a summer romance, or could their love weather even the coldest winds?

Hate-to-love romances are definitely my weakness, and Summer's Lease is no exception. Down-on-her-luck Cesca is a character that I really rooted for. Despondent and disillusioned, she deserved a break, and I willed her to turn her life around. Sam, true to form as a romantic lead, has the looks, wit and charisma to melt even the coldest of hearts. He and Cesca had explosive chemistry from the off, and it was clear from relatively early on, in spite of their intense dislike for each other, just how their story was going to end. But this is so much more than just a love story. Over the course of the summer under the Italian sun Cesca rediscovers herself, and her talent for writing. She realises that a change really can do you good, and that it's never too late to chase your dreams.

If had any criticism it would only be that I wanted to see more of Italy. The majority of the action takes place in and around the villa, and whilst Sam was essentially housebound in avoiding the paparazzi, a little exploration of the local area and culture from Cesca would have made for interesting reading. The novel also treads a very fine line between contemporary romance and erotic fiction - those steamier scenes hit me from nowhere, and whilst I'm not complaining, up until that point I was planning on letting my mum read this book after me! 

That being said, nothing can detract from what was in essence a great story. Heartwarming, escapist and fun, Summer's Lease is the perfect summer read, no matter where you're bound! 
Be sure to follow the blog tour for more on Summer's Lease!

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Review: The Captain's Girl by Nicola Pryce

I had previously read, and really enjoyed, Nicola Pryce's previous novel Pengelly's Daughter, so I jumped at the chance to read The Captain's Girl. Thanks to Readers First for providing me with a copy in exchange for a review!

Cornwall 1793 - As the French Revolution threatens the stability of England, so too is discontent brewing in the heart of Celia Cavendish. Promised to the brutal Viscount Vallenforth, she must find a way to break free from the bounds of a life stifled by convention and cruelty.

Inspired by her cousin Arbella, who just a few months earlier followed her heart and eloped with the man she loved, she vows to escape her impending marriage and take her destiny back into her own hands. She enlists her neighbours, Sir James and Lady Polcarrow, who have themselves made a dangerous enemy of Celia's father, in the hope of making a new life for herself.

But can the Polcarrows' mysterious friend Arnaud, captain of the cutter L'Aigrette, protect Celia from a man who will let nothing stand in the way of his greed? And will Arnaud himself prove to be friend... or foe?

I was delighted to discover that Nicola's second novel is set in the same fictional world as her first, full of familiar faces and characters that I wanted to find out more about. If I really liked Pengelly's Daughter then I loved The Captain's Girl. The drama is taken up a notch to the point where I couldn't turn the pages fast enough to find out what happened, and the temptation to read ahead was overwhelming. Packed with twists and turns, I didn't know which characters, if any, I could trust - right up until the final chapter when the truth is finally revealed. Dashing sea captains, conspiracy and intrigue, forbidden love - all of the components are there for cracking historical fiction that transports you to a world that you won't want to leave.

The setting of this novel, particularly with the backdrop of the French Revolution, tallies perfectly with the latest series of Poldark currently airing on the BBC.  The Captain's Girl is clearly aimed at fans of the show, and is perfect for whiling away the week between episodes. From the rugged Cornish coast, to the backstreets of Bodmin, to sailing the open sea in the starlight, the settings are so well described that I could picture them vividly. Arnaud's cutter L'Aigrette is beautifully depicted and quickly becomes a character in herself - the fastest boat in the channel, beloved by those who have sailed her.

Captain Arnaud was every inch the gentleman, always there for Celia whether she wanted him to be or not. Celia was a woman imprisoned by her status, willing to break free from the bounds of convention and propriety and escape. She gets a whole lot more than she ever bargained for, and she and Arnaud become quite the team. Another character that I loved was Charity. Although partially sighted, she doesn't let her disability impede her in any way, and her attitude to life was inspiring.

As I said in my review of the previous book, this world and these characters still have plenty of scope for more stories, and I hope that there is at least one more novel set in this particular corner of Cornwall!

Monday, 3 July 2017

Review: One Summer in Tuscany by Domenica De Rosa

Love, rivalry, and writing in a Tuscan paradise . . . Welcome to the Castello de Luna

High on a hill in the Tuscan countryside stands a castle of golden stone, home to Patricia O’Hara’s writers’ retreat – a serene hideaway where you can polish your prose by the pool, gain inspiration from your peers and eat the best melanzane in Italy, courtesy of chef Aldo. But, while the splendour of their surroundings never fails to wow the guests, huge maintenance bills and bad news from the bank threaten to close Patricia down. It’s make or break time for the Castello de Luna.

This August each of her seven aspiring authors arrives with emotional baggage alongside their manuscripts. But something is different. It may be just the prosecco, but soon lifelong spinster Mary is riding on the back of Aldo’s Vespa, and smouldering odd-job man Fabio has set more than one heart racing.

As temperatures rise, the writers gossip, flirt and gently polish their prose by the pool. But with some unexpected visitors to contend with, one thing’s for sure: neither the Castello, nor Patricia, has ever seen a summer like this. 

Any book set in Italy is an instant must-read for me, so I was thrilled when I was invited to be a part of the blog tour for One Summer in Tuscany! From the blurb I was expecting a nice easy summer read, but what I got was so much more than that.  

To keep the Castello afloat, Patricia O'Hara runs writers retreats, opening her doors to a select number of guests. Sightseeing, sunbathing and sampling the local cuisine are all on the agenda, as well as what the guests hope will be quality writing time. I was initially overwhelmed when they all arrived at the Castello, with so many names and back stories to keep track of. I suspect that this is deliberate though - like our hostess Patricia we are thrown in at the deep end quickly trying to make sense of who's who. I soon got it sussed , and really liked the fact that the story was told from the perspective of almost all of the characters at some point. We got an insight into all of their personal lives, not just through narration but through diary entries and emails too. This gave real depth to the novel, and made me empathise with even the initially unlikeable characters.

The age range and vastly different backgrounds of all of the characters made for an interesting dynamic; they are a group of people thrown together on a writing course who almost certainly would not have been friends in the 'real world'. From course tutor Jeremy Bullen, an author still riding on the coat tails of his bestselling novel from twenty years ago, to Mary McMahon, a  retired civil servant with an unpublished manuscript she's been working on for three decades, each character has much more to them than meets the eye. Aldo was my favourite character by far. He may be a stereotypical Italian chef on the surface, but he had a heart of gold - and his food sounded amazing! Through him we saw a different side to Italy, the side the tourists don't often see, which again added another dimension to the story.

The Castello is a world away from reality, a romantic crumbling Gothic fantasy complete with its own ghost story. It is a refuge from life's problems - or at least that's what the paying guests like to think. It takes on a life of its own, becoming a character in itself. Tuscany too is depicted beautifully, from the dusty roads to the historic vineyards, and it certainly made me want to visit it for myself. The food, the landscapes, it is all so well described that I could picture it vividly. As luck would have it, I read this book during a rare UK heatwave, so I could almost pretend I was there with the guests. Almost. The heat, at times languid, at other times oppressive, builds a sense of tension that slowly intensifies as the summer wears on. I knew something was going to happen, but I had no idea what. It was this that made this novel so addictive, with short chapters that made it even easier to read.  

One Summer in Tuscany is the perfect holiday read, no matter where you're heading this summer.

Follow the blog tour for more reviews of this brilliant book!