Just for Christmas

Just For Christmas When Alex Munro learns that the love of her life is getting married to another girl, all she wants to do is to be alone – and as far away from Edinburgh as possible. Moving to a Cornish Cottage, which comes complete with the world’s scruffiest dog, Alex finds that her new neighbours are determined to involve her in their madcap Christmas festivities. Then she meets her sexy neighbour Ruan and somehow Alex doesn’t want to be alone this Christmas after all.

I picked this book up because I love Christmas stories and it seemed like a perfect book to curl up with on a cold winters day.  I really enjoyed it and it met that criteria perfectly – it was romantic, funny and emotional.

The cast of characters are likeable and everyone from Buoy the dog to Lucy the barmaid have their own stories and personalities that shine through. This is not just a story about Alex and Ruan, it’s a story about life in a tight knit community and the people (and animals) who get under your skin before you know what’s happening.

Of course nothing is plain sailing and there a few misunderstandings along the way along with one huge problem when Alex’s reason for running to Cornwall turns up – what a jerk he is!

I love Ruan, fell in love with him the minute he stormed into the pub soaking wet looking to kill the new harbour master. The description of him was so perfect I wanted to move down there myself (but not to be a harbour master!)

Away from everything she knows, Alex has an opportunity to find herself and realises she’s not the person she and everyone else thought she was for so many years.

Ultimately this is a feel good romance perfect to escape with for a few hours and leaves you feeling very satisfied. I will definitely be looking for more by this author

Book Information
  • Author: Scarlett Bailey
  • Buy on Kindle (UK)Buy from Amazon (UK)

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

A Walk in the Park

A Walk In The Park When she was sixteen, Lara Carson left her home and disappeared.  Eighteen years later, she finds herself back again, much to the delight of her old best friend Evie.  When an unexpected event causes Lara to extend her stay, she dreads bumping into the gorgeous Flynn Erskine again; her boyfriend back when she was sixteen, and the reason she left in the first place.

One of the most reassuring things about picking up a new Jill Mansell book is that you know what you are going to get. Plot and pacing are generally the same in most chick-lit novels, along with the required happy ending.  This might come across as a little boring and predictable but it’s not only what I expect in the genre, but also exactly what I want.  The brilliance of a Mansell book then, comes from the characterisations and situations built onto that standard framework.  Her ability to make me care about the characters in a very short space of time and be emotionally invested in what happens is second to none.

There are more peripheral characters in this story than usual and I actually really liked how they were linked together, rather than the more typical solution of having them just living in one area.  It made for a richer experience and some very comical moments.

Jill Mansell manages to catch personality types perfectly and it’s one of her greatest talents, being able to build believable and realistic characters without going over the top.  A Walk in the Park is no exception and even went above and beyond what I consider to be a good read.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: Jill Mansell
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A Rural Affair

A Rural Affair A Rural Affair is the story of Poppy Shilling, a woman set free from her loveless and controlling marriage.

I loved the character of Poppy, she was well created and I thought Catherine Alliott really caught the confusing sense of relief/grief she felt over her late, over-controlling husband.  The freak accident was brilliant and I did feel a bit guilty for laughing but it couldn’t have happened to a more deserving character.  The mysterious shock and depression Poppy goes into was also very well done and I liked how the reader didn’t find out why for a short while, even while feeling something was terribly wrong.  It all felt very realistic, the fog, the distractedness and listlessness and when the reason was revealed I felt angry for her.

Her group of friends were an interesting bunch, all very different and flawed in their own way.  The way the friendships ebbed and flowed was a bit disconcerting with a certain amount of bitchiness involved.  Poor Poppy was often caught in the middle trying to appease but it is very much a role she just accepted, rather than established herself.  Seeing her grow, albeit in fits and starts from a woman who had no mind of her own to being able to stand up for herself was quite special.  Some of the predicaments she finds herself in during that process were often laugh out loud funny, and definitely situations you could quite see happening to yourself or a friend.

I liked Sam Wetherington the instant they met but oddly you don’t see as much of him as I would have expected.  He did make an impact on me nonetheless and all the scenes with Poppy were meaningful even if nothing much happened.  I have to mention the Ball because I was equal parts laughing and cringing, it was a wonderful scene and was good to see Poppy let her hair down!

I was a little disappointed with the ending, it seemed to finish almost abruptly but it didn’t stop the nice warm glow from happening.

A great summer read that will surely entertain fans of light hearted romance.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: Catherine Alliott
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Scandalous – Tilly Bagshawe

When Sasha Miller enters Cambridge University as an innocent 18 year old with an aptitude for physics she has a dream. A dream which is soon destroyed along with her reputation thanks to her professor Theo Dexter. Humiliated and vilified Sasha is forced to watch as Theo goes from strength to strength taking America by storm. Sasha decides there and then that the sole purpose of her life will be to destroy Theo and clear her name any way she can.

This book was an enjoyable read in the style of Jilly Cooper. The descriptions were vivid and I found it easy to imagine myself there. The story moved from Cambridge to America and the plot managed to dance across the continents quite nicely.

The story deals with betrayal and revenge with a side helping (very small side helping mind you) of romance. The final happy ever after was so quick that if you blinked  you would have missed it which was a bit disappointing. However, this is not primarily a romance novel and so I guess it was a bonus to have any romance in there.

The plot was easy to follow without the complicated twists you sometimes get in books which leave you scratching your head and having to backtrack to find out what just happened! I do think some of the characters were a bit over the top, stereotypical and you knew exactly where the story was going, but just how Sasha would get her revenge was not immediately obvious.

Despite these comments it is not by any means a depressing story (although there is definitely no humour there!) and would be a great book to take on holiday and read on the beach – if you like chick lit this one is for you.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: Tilly Bagshawe
  • Buy on Kindle (UK)Buy from Amazon (UK)


Irreverent Questions With… Katie Fforde

I was absolutely beside myself when Katie Fforde kindly agreed to be our next victim guest on Irreverent Questions!

She is without a doubt one of the finest writers of contemporary romance (or chick-lit if you prefer) and I have been a huge fan for the longest time.  Her books are sweet, funny, and utterly engaging with characters you can easily empathise with.  The settings are as unique as the characters; quaint rural english villages, highlands of Scotland and even a canal barge to name but a few.  As they aren’t part of a series, you can pick up any book of hers and be absorbed, so if you haven’t experienced any of Katie’s wonderful stories, what are you waiting for?

Katie Fforde’s latest book is Recipe for Love and is released on 1st March 2012!

On with the Irreverence!

What would you be or want to be (or still are), if you weren’t an author?
I’d like to be a torch singer but failing that an agony aunt.

Do you have any rituals or processes before you can start writing?
I play a lot of spider patience on my computer and go on Twitter. This can take hours!

Describe your working environment right now (desk, sofa, bathroom, etc.)
I have a little, incredibly untidy office. It has a lovely view though. And a lot of books, a kettle, a heater and a radio.

How did you celebrate when your first book was published?
I felt weird when my first book was published. It just felt very very scary. Still feel like that really.

Whose opinion matters most to you?
My readers opinions matter to me. Also my editors’ (I have two) and my daughter’s.

Do you get fully dressed to write?
I usually write in my nightie and dressing gown – slippers in winter, Berkies in summer.

What gets you in the mood or inspires you to write?
Professional writers always have to be in the mood to write. Although sometimes you really don’t feel like it and your have to just start. You get into it by doing it.

Who would play you in the film adaptation of your life?
Very hard to think of who would play me in the film of my life. Have a horrible feeling it would be Imelda Staunton.

What is the weirdest comment you’ve had?
It was from a German journalist interviewing me about the fact my books are being made into films for TV in German. She said, ‘Would you like to be as famous in the UK as you are in Germany.’ I don’t think I’m famous in Germany!!!!

What is the best experience you’ve had with fans?
All experiences with fans are good. I suppose it’s best when they become friends.

What do you value most?
My family, no question.

How do you deal with negative comments?
I don’t deal well with negative reviews as I always think they are right! But I don’t comment on the whole. I am a bit too sensitive.

It’s movie night, the credits are just about to roll, Happy Ever After or Everyone Dies?
Happy Ever After! Who likes Everyone Dies? That’s what happens in real life!

What do you do to relax?
Read, watch television.

Do you have pets, and if so, describe them?
I have many pets currently, including three puppies that need homes. Apart from them, there are two dogs (Cavalier King Charles Spaniels) and a cat who thinks it’s funny to scratch me.

What are your preferred conditions for writing, i.e. silence, background noise, TV?
I quite often start writing with the radio on (R4) but as I get into it I turn it off and have to have silence. Sometimes I have to go downstairs and turn the radio off down there if I can hear it.

What is your favourite type of music?
I like many sorts of music and love singing. I’m a member of a choir. That said, I mostly listen to talk radio. I really hate churches with bands in them that include drum kits.

Do you have any phobias?
I don’t like heights at all although have agreed to abseil down our church tower to raise funds. Yes I am mad.

Do you find the time of year makes it easier or harder to write, are you inspired by spring or delayed by the summer heat for instance?
I like to write in summer but my deadlines mean I mostly write in autumn and winter.

Slippers, socks or barefoot?
Slippers in winter, sometimes barefoot in summer.

Many thanks to Katie Fforde for taking the time to answer our questions and if you want to know more, visit her Website, Facebook or Twitter!

Pictures provided by, and used with permission of Katie Fforde

Irreverent Questions is BookThing‘s fun, weekly feature where we ask a series of random questions that popped into Grete’s curious head. If you are an author and would like to take part, please get in touch!


Books I can’t wait for in 2012!

This isn’t a definitive list of what is being released this year, just books I am looking forwards to in particular.  I have probably missed some and of course, there will always be authors that are new to me to be discovered.  Let the reading begin… as they get released of course 😉


Lothaire by Kresley Cole (Immortals After Dark #12)
Jacob by Jacquelyn Frank (The Nightwalkers #1)
Gideon by Jacquelyn Frank (The Nightwalkers #2)
Seven Princes by John R. Fultz (Books of the Shaper #1)
Unclean Spirits by M. L. N. Hanover (Black Sun’s Daughter #1)
The Duke is Mine by Eloisa James
Second Grave on the Left by Darynda Jones (Charley Davidson #2)
Copper Beach by Jayne Ann Krentz (Dark Legacy #1)
Heir of Night by Helen Lowe (Wall of Night #1)
No One Left to Tell by Karen Rose
Heir of Novron by Michael J. Sullivan (The Riyria Revelations)
Blue-Blooded Vamp by Jaye Wells (Sabina Kane #4)
Eternal Hunger by Laura Wright (Mark of the Vampire #1)
Eternal Kiss by Laura Wright (Mark of the Vampire #2)

It’s very hard to choose just one out of all the great books being released this month but my top pick for January is No One Left to Tell by Karen Rose.


Mass Effect: Deception by William C. Dietz
Darker Angels by M. L. N. Hanover (Black Sun’s Daughter #2)
Third Grave Dead Ahead by Darynda Jones (Charley Davidson #3)
A Walk in the Park by Jill Mansell
The Dread by Gail Z. Martin (Fallen Kings Cycle #2)
Eternal Captive by Laura Wright (Mark of the Vampire #3)

The Dread by Gail Z. Martin continues the Fallen Kings Cycle and is my top pick for February.


Bridge of Dreams by Anne Bishop (Ephemera #3)
Fair Game by Patricia Briggs (Alpha & Omega #3)
Recipe for Love by Katie Fforde
Elijah by Jacquelyn Frank (The Nightwalkers #3)
Damien by Jacquelyn Frank (The Nightwalkers #4)
Vicious Grace by M. L. N. Hanover (Black Sun’s Daughter #3)
Fated by Benedict Jacka (Alex Verus #1)
Infamous by Sherrilyn Kenyon (Chronicles of Nick #3)
Exogene by T. C. McCarthy (Subterrene War #2)
Lover Reborn by J. R. Ward (Black Dagger Brotherhood #10)
A Rising Thunder by David Weber (Honor Harrington)

March is a very tough month to choose a top pick from, with books out by several favourite authors.  I am going to have to go with Lover Reborn by J. R. Ward since I love the Black Dagger Brotherhood and this is Tohr’s story!


Noah by Jacquelyn Frank (The Nightwalkers #5)
Killing Rites by M. L. N. Hanover (Black Sun’s Daughter #4)
Vengeance by Ian Irvine (The Tainted Realm #1)
Gathering of the Lost by Helen Lowe (Wall of Night #2)
The Love Letter by Fiona Walker
32 Fangs by David Wellington (Laura Caxton #5)

The Love Letter by Fiona Walker is my pick for April, her books never fail to amuse and entertain me.


The King’s Blood by Daniel Abraham (Dagger and the Coin #2)
Dragon Bound by Thea Harrison (Elder Races #1)
Born of Silence by Sherrilyn Kenyon (League #5)
Frostbite by Richelle Mead,  Emma Vieceli and Leigh Dragoon (Vampire Academy Graphic Novel #2)

By May I will be jumping up and down with excitement with the release of Born Of Silence by Sherrilyn Kenyon, the next book in her brilliant League series!


Darkness Devours by Keri Arthur (Dark Angel #3)
Caliban’s War by James S. A. Corey (Expanse #2)
Blackout by Mira Grant (Newsflesh Trilogy #3)
Storm’s Heart by Thea Harrison (Elder Races #2)
Lethal Rider by Larissa Ione (Lords of Deliverance #3)
Cursed by Benedict Jacka (Alex Verus #2)
Messenger’s Angel by Heather Killough-Walden (Lost Angels #2)
The Golden Lily by Richelle Mead (Bloodlines #2)
A Night like This by Julia Quinn (Smythe-Smith Quartet #2)
Silver-Tongued Devil by Jaye Wells (Sabina Kane #5)

This is not getting any easier!  June has so many books I am really excited about, but if my arm was twisted behind my back to choose (please don’t!) it would have to be Lethal Rider by Larissa Ione.


Thirteen by Kelley Armstrong (Women of the Otherworld #13)

July is a bit of an obvious one!


Time Untime by Sherrilyn Kenyon (Dark-Hunter #22)
Shadow Blizzard by Alexey Pehov (Chronicles of Siala #3)
Seawitch by Kat Richardson (Greywalker #7)
Kitty Steals the Show by Carrie Vaughn (Kitty Norville #10)

Kitty Steals the Show by Carrie Vaughn is my pick for August, I just love this series so much!


Death’s Angel by Heather Killough-Walden (Lost Angels #3)

This month speaks for itself 😉

Summer of Love

I was a bit disappointed with Summer of Love which is unusual for me and a Katie Fforde novel since I usually ADORE them.  It’s still a funny and sweet story but I felt it lacked Fforde’s usual sparkle.  It’s by no means a bad book, I still read it in a day and would read it again, but it is not one of her best.

One of the things I find outstanding in her writing are the characterisations; they are loveable, believable and sometimes larger than life.  In Summer of Love this is still the case but some of the reactions and interactions just missed the mark and I found some conversations a little confusing.

The plot itself while simple and sweet felt very close to a few other books I’ve read in the past which is perhaps why it didn’t feel quite right to me.  ‘Girl meets boy, has only one day before he has to leave the country, mad romp ensues and has unexpected consequences.  Forward five years to see where Girl is at now and ends up meeting Boy again, confused feelings, arguments then Happy Ending’.  Usually that’s the kind of story I love, but it just seemed to lack the impact her books usually bring.

I did like the main characters however, Sian and Rory were funny and a great mum and son team.  Fiona was just loveable and I think everyone would want her as a friend! James was a nice surprise and became much more than he first appeared. Gus had moments when he irritated me but on the whole he was just what Sian needed.

The character I didn’t like at all was Richard, he just didn’t really seem to have any impact whatsoever, except to give Sian a different option, and not really a very good one at that.

There were also a few typos which jerked me out of the story, and again this is very unusual for a Fforde book.  If I had to describe how the book felt, I would simply say it felt rushed.

Definitely worth reading since it is a sweet story but not one of her best, I’m sad to say.

Rating: ★★½☆☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: Katie Fforde
  • Buy from Amazon (UK)

Love Letters

Booklover Laura Horsley is a shy, quiet girl who loves her job working in a small bookshop.  When the owner decides it’s time to retire, she finds herself in the scary position of having to find new employment.  Against her better judgement,  she agrees to help organise a literary and music festival in the countryside and a moment of misunderstanding leads the committee to think she personally knows one of the literary world’s brightest and more reclusive stars.  With the funding, band involvement and other author attendance all dependent on Dermot Flynn attending, she is given the task of tracking him down personally and getting his involvement.  No small task then, especially since she’s had a crush on him since University and first read his books!

I thought this was an incredibly sweet book.  I loved the characters, especially Laura and Dermot and groaned each time they had a missed opportunity be it from bad timing or misunderstandings.  The pace of the story was good and as the run up to the festival started, you felt the pressure and urgency mounting which I thought was very clever.  It was involving and interesting and I loved seeing Laura come out of her shell.  I think a lot of people will see themselves in the character, myself included.  There were several funny moments that had me laughing and there were also some very touching scenes which were nicely done.  It was very enjoyable, couldn’t put it down and I think it’s definitely one of Katie Fforde’s best books.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Book Information
  • Author: Katie Fforde
  • Buy from Amazon (UK)

This Charming Man

Four women, all linked by the love of one man – politician Paddy de Courcy.  His current girlfriend Lola hears on the news he is marrying someone else, Grace is both a journalist and an ex and wants to get the scoop on the engagement.  Grace’s sister Marnie remembers the first love she experienced with Paddy, and still feels the loss.  Then there is Alicia, the fiancee.  A dark secret links them together and as Grace searches for the truth to Paddy de Courcy, old wounds are reopened and brought to light.

I love Marian Keyes’ work.  It’s usually funny, touching and emotional and This Charming Man is no different in that respect.  What it also has which makes it outstanding is a much darker side to the story and at times was very difficult to read because of it.  The story flows well and the little flashback segments interjected throughout create concern and confusion which deepens as the plot unfolds.  You can’t help but love Lola, Grace and Marnie and empathise with them greatly.  The character of Alicia concerned me a little as I ended up not caring about her very much and I’m not sure if that was intentional or not.  I finished the book with a powerful sense of relief and while it was on the dark side, how it all turned out was very good.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Book Information
  • Author: Marian Keyes
  • Buy from Amazon (UK)

Jill Mansell

About Jill Mansell

Jill Mansell is a full time writer (when she’s not procrastinating) and lives in Bristol with her family. With 20 books all still in print, and over a decade of experience, she is one of Britain’s best loved writers of romantic comedy.


My comments

Perfect Timing was the first book I read by Jill Mansell, and I loved it so much I had to read it again straight away. My only experience of humourous romance up til then had been Jilly Cooper and it was a revelation to find someone who also created larger than life characters who were funny, charming, witty, and above all, very human. I regularly re-read them and I am always entertained and get very excited when she has a new book published.