We’ll Always Have Paris by Sue Watson published 28 July 2016

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Rosie Carter is getting over the death of her husband when she bumps into her first love Peter. She hasn’t seen Peter for 47 years since the day he broke her heart, which she never got over. Seeing Peter again opens old wounds but Rosie finds she still has feelings for him. Can they put the past behind the them and have a future together, or can some actions never be forgiven?
This is a beautifully written, heartwarming book about finding love in your later years. The characters are endearing and realistic. As a person who lost a parent 2 years ago I identified with Rosie’s daughters, Anna and Isobel, concern for their mother. The storyline is a bit predictable but leaves the reader uplifted. Overall, a lovely story about equally lovely people.

The Santiago Sisters by Victoria Fox published 28 July 2016

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Twins, Teresa and Calida Santiago, are brought up on an estancia in Argentina. They are very close, basically two halves of one person. After a change in circumstances they are given a very different futures. Teresa is adopted by English film star Simone Geddes. She becomes Tess Gedes, and given all that money can buy; a private education, expensive clothes, and the chance to become an actress in Hollywood. Calida, however, is not so lucky. She is left alone to run the estancia and feels rejected by her twin. She decides to work her way to the top with the hope of being reunited with Tess. But of course there are obstacles she has to overcome.
Victoria Fox is the master of the beach bag book. When I pick up one of her books I know what I am getting; glamour, sex, rivalries, scandal and lots of beautiful people. This book doesn’t disappoint, it has a great storyline that spans different glamorous locations and as a cast of varied characters. This is a book that will keep you hooked until you reach the last page with its twists and turns and fabulous plot. I highly recommend this book for those who want an easy read that is well written and a great story. I also recommend Victoria’s other books especially Power Games and Temptation Island.

Lie with Me by Sabine Durrant published 28 July 2016

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Paul Morris is a charmer and a liar. He is the kind of person who’s takes advantage of others generosity; he lives in a friends flat rent free, he has a free Sunday lunch every week care of another friend. He goes through life on the fact that 20 years ago he had a novel published to critical acclaim. A chance encounter with a university friend in a book shop opens another door for Paul. He gets a chance to ingratiate himself with Andrew’s family and close friend Alice. Alice is a wealthy widow and a new target for Paul, who has no money and needs a new place to live. After a few lies he manages to get an invitation to Alice’s villa in the Greek Islands where she holidays with Andrew and his family. The lies keep on coming and events start to turn sinister and it seems Paul may not be the only one with an agenda.
This is a wonderfully dark psychological thriller with a gripping storyline. Throughout the narrative there is a sense of foreboding that climaxes in the final twist. It has great characters with many layers to their personality. They seem to change with each chapter and their dynamics change which keeps the readers interest. The metaphor of events spiralling out f control in the heat of a foreign land is a common literary device, and Sabine uses it well. In the heat of the Greek Islands tensions and old grudges come to the fore and secrets are exposed.
This is an excellent read tha will keep you on the edge of your seat or bed, depending on where you read.

Q&A session with Sharon Maas author of The Sugar Planter’s Daughter

1. What was growing up in Guyana like ?

Like most Guyanese who grew up pre-independence, I can get very nostalgic and sentimental about my “small days”, as we call childhood in Guyana. I grew up in the capital, Georgetown, which was such a beautiful, mellow, friendly place. I grew up in a middle-class family so I am privileged: my memories are full of fruit trees, beautiful gardens, fun at school, friends, uncles and aunts, trips to the beach or to the creeks in the Interior. This was MY British Guiana, though; of course there was also suffering, particularly for families who worked as labourers on the sugar plantations. As a child one is oblivious to such problems; thankfully, our elders were aware and fought for a better world for the underprivileged. I’m proud to come from a politically active family: both my parents threw their lives into the struggle for fairer conditions.

2. What was your favourite book as a child?
I was a thoroughly addicted Enid Blyton fan. I can still recall the enchantment that would surround me when I read books like The Magic Faraway Tree, or the excitement as I read the adventure and mystery series! Her boarding-school books made me pester my mother to send me to England to boarding school! However, when I was ten I read My Friend Flicka by Mary O’Hara and that was the first book that reduced me to tears. I can still quote the line that made me burst the moment I read it: it went like this: “I wanted a little girl too.” And come to think of it, that very line may be the hidden motivation behind The Sugar Planter’s Daughter! For the first time I became aware of the emotional power a book can have over a reader. I read it many times since then.

3. What authors have influenced you.
As mentioned above, Mary O’Hara taught me of the power the written word can have over a reader’s emotions. Later on it was the great family sagas that made me want to emulate the authors: Colleen McCullough (The Thorn Birds) and Susan Howatch, as well as a Guyanese author, Edgar Mittelholzer. But there’s no denying the power the classics had on me: Charlotte Bronte and of course William Shakespeare. I can still quote passages from various Shakespeare plays – I had to learn them in school, and I think that by-heart learning of poetry and beautiful texts helped me to develop a sense for good language and rhythm.

4. What is the hardest part of writing a book ?

I write mostly historical fiction, and it’s often difficult getting hold of the facts. Not so much the great events of the time, which are well documented, but the small everyday details. How did people cook, clean, what would a woman wear in 1910 British Guiana, what expressions would they use, and so on.
Apart from that, I find the actual act of writing terribly frustrating! It takes so long to get a book down; I wish I could get the story into my computer without having to actually type it! Someone should invent a brain-to-screen device which would get ideas into visible words simply by thinking them!

5. What advice would you give to new authors?

I am an advocate of not following trends, of writing from the heart, writing that story that won’t let you go. I think those are the most viable stories in the long term, the most authentic. Trends come and go and you can never predict what’s the next big thing; by the time you’ve written the next “insert-bestselling-author-or-genre-of-the-day”, that train might well have passed. Trust the stories that rise from deep within, as those are the ones with the strongest legs. And good luck!

The Sugar Planter’s Daughter by Sharon Maas published 22 July 2016

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1912 British Guiana, South America. Sisters Winnie and Yoyo have been brought up in a priilaged world on the sugar plantation Promised Land. But things have changed; their father is in prison, Winnie has disgraced her family by marrying George, a black postman from the slums of Georgetown, and Yoyo has married for convenience so she can run the family business.
Yoyo may have wealth and a beautiful home but is jealous of the love between George and Winnie. Used to getting her own way, Yoko decides to take what Winnie holds dear no matter what the consequences.
This novel is full of emotion; betrayal, temptation, love, anger, but most of all it is about forgiveness. The novel is voiced by the four main characters, Winnie, Yoyo, George and Ruth, Winnie and Yoyo’s mother. This gives the narrative balance as we see the main storyline from the view of all those concerned. The characters themselves are multi layered which gives them credibility. Yoyo, who comes across as spoiled and vindictive, also has a side that makes the reader empathise with her.
As well as good characterisation, the sights and sounds of British Guiana are evoked through the detailed descriptive prose. There is also a good amount of historical detail.
When I started this book I didn’t realise it was the second in a series about Winnie and George, but do not let this put you off as it can be read as a stand alone novel, I didn’t feel I needed to read the previous book to understand the plot. I will however look out for the sequel as I would like to find out what happens to Winnie, George and Yoyo.
Overall a good book with great historical detail.

The Stepmother by Claire Seeber published 15 July 2016

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Jeanne is newly married to Matthew King and has just moved to Malum House, a beautiful Elizabethan property. Jeanie can’t believe how fast her life has turned around, as she is recovering from an incident that lost her her job and has brought up her son, Frankie, as a single mother. The problem is she has not told Matthew about her troubled past or childhood. As well as a new husband she has two stepchildren, Scarlett and Lucas, to win over which is difficult as Scarlett is very hostile. Her new life as wife and stepmother is made harder when her past starts to catch up with her. Can Jeannie win over Scarlett and find out who is bringing her past into he present and threatening her future.

This is a well written Psychlogical Thrriller. The main narrator is Jeannie but there are occasional chapters narrated by Jeannie’s sister Marlena which give a different view to what is happening. The plot moves quickly and tension is kept throughout to keep the readers attention. There are a cast of strong central characters as well as a good supporting cast. The main characters are not excactly what they seem, and it’s not just Jeannie who has secrets in her past. The twists and turns of this novel bring the reader to an exciting ending with a great twist.

The Light of Paris by Eleanor Brown published 12 July 2016

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Two women, grandmother and granddaughter, from two different eras facing very similar problems.
1924 Margie is a dissapointment to her parents; unmarried at 24, not particularly beautiful, prefers to read and write than go out. She feels a misfit in society. Then the chance comes to chaperone her cousin on a top to Paris. In Paris Margie comes alive, she is accepted by society and enjoys the company of artists and writers, she is no longer shackled by her parents values.
1999 Margie’s granddaughter, Madelein, comes to visit her mother in her hometown of Magnolia. She feels lost in a loveless and controlling marriage that she entered to please her mother. She no longer knows who she is or what she wants, like her grandmother she has spent her life trying to live by her mothers and societies values. On her visit she finds her grandmothers diaries in the loft and sees how similar their lives are. She finds inspiration in them and it makes her reconsider her own life.

This is a beautifully written book, especially the descriptions of Paris. I liked the parallel narrative and the different writing of Madelein’s story in the first person and Margie’s story in the third person, it made the narrative more interesting to read. There’s a good ensemble of supporting characters to Margie and Madelein’s story, all of which bring a sense of verisimilitude to the story. I have to say I found Margie’s story stronger; she transformed from a caterpillar into a butterfly in Paris and as a reader I really wanted her to enjoy her experience and break free from the constraints imposed on her by Ameican society. Madelein’s story was weaker and at times frustrating. She, like her grandmother, was made to feel like a misfit in society and a disappointment to her mother, but I don’t think she had the same charisma as Margie and I found her infuriating at times, I wanted her to be stronger.
Overall I did enjoy this book, I love books about Paris, but felt Madelein’s story needed to be stronger.

The Lake House by Kate Morton Published 2015

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Summer 1933 and the Edevane family are holding their annual Midsummer Ball at their Cornwall home Loeanneth. During the midnight firework display a tragedy happens that makes the family leave the house and move to London, never to return.

In 2003 DCI Sadie Sparrow is in Cornwall visiting her grandfather after working on a troubling case. Whilst there she comes across Loeanneth and begins to look into the mystery attached to it. In London Alice Edevane, now in her 80s, is writing her 50th crime novel. For 70 years she has felt guilty about what happened that night in !933, but has never talked about it. This is all about to change when she receives a letter from DCI Sadie Sparrow, who wants to find out what happened to Alice’s brother Theo.

I have read, and loved, all Kate Morton’s other books so was expecting great things from this book, and I wasn’t disappointed. I love her formula of setting her novels in two different eras with their narrative running concurrently, it makes the book hard to put down as you want to know what happens next in each era. Her writing is very descriptive, she almost paints a picture with words. The description of Loeanneth is so vivid that I could see it like a postcard and felt is was a scene that was familiar to me. Her characters have an honesty and warmth about them that makes them feel like family. The realism of flawed but likeable characters draws you into their lives. I really enjoyed the running theme of motherhood in the storyline, and what it means to be a mother; each generation has their own problems but all show the lengths a mother would go to to provide the best for their children.

As you can tell I really enjoyed this book and would highly recommend it and her other novels.