Book Blog, Book Reviews, Guest Reviews

The Transatlantic Marriage Bureau @aurumpress @womentoinspire #GuestReview By J A Warnock

The Transatlantic Marriage Bureau By Julie Ferry
Aurum Press ~ Feb 2017
Review ~ J A Warnock 

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On 6 November 1895 Consuelo Vanderbilt married Charles Spencer-Churchill, 9th Duke of Marlborough. Though the preceding months had included spurned loves, unexpected deaths, scandal and illicit affairs, the wedding was the crowning moment for the unofficial marriage brokers, Lady Minnie Paget and Consuelo Yzanga, Dowager Duchess of Manchester, the original buccaneers who had instructed, cajoled and manipulated wealthy young heiresses into making the perfect match.

Fame, money, power, prestige, perhaps even love – these were some of the reasons for the marriages that took place between wealthy American heiresses and the English aristocracy in 1895. For a few, the marriages were happy but for many others, the matches brought loneliness, infidelity, bankruptcy and divorce.

Focusing on a single year, The Transatlantic Marriage Bureau tells the story of a group of wealthy American heiresses seeking to marry into the English aristocracy. From the beautiful and eligible debutante Consuelo Vanderbilt, in love with a dashing older man but thwarted by her controlling mother, Washington society heiress Mary Leiter who married the pompous Lord Curzon and became the Vicereine of India, Maud Burke, vivacious San Francisco belle with a questionable background, this book uncovers their stories. Also revealed is the hidden role played Lady Minnie Paget and Consuelo Yzanga, Dowager Duchess of Manchester, two unofficial marriage brokers who taught the heiresses how to use every social trick in the book to land their dream husband.

The Transatlantic Marriage Bureau dashes through the year to uncover the seasons, the parties, the money, the glamour, the gossip, the scandal and the titles, always with one eye on the two women who made it all possible.

Review By J A Warnock 

Did you ever read an account of a historical event and think “Wow, I wish I had a seat at that dinner table” or “To have been a fly on that wall…”? If your answer is no then ‘The Transatlantic Marriage Bureau’ by Julie Ferry probably isn’t for you. If you answered yes, read on.

There is no question that a stupendous amount of research has gone into the production of this book but there is also a fair bit of imagination.  Ferry uses fictitious scenes of her own imagining to stitch together biographical accounts, contemporary journals, letters and social commentary into a giant (I do mean giant; it is not a short book) patchwork of a story. This makes for a style of writing that not everyone will take to. The flow of more traditional narrative storytelling is regularly interrupted by this or that opinion on the subject and, while it is interesting and reinforcing, it can get a little distracting.

The narrative meanders around the topic of the business of Transatlantic Marriage brokering and its key players with no real predictable structure. There is no attempted to build suspense rather events are presented a historical fait accompli sometimes all at once. It reminded me a little of those stand up comics who start a story at the opening of the show and distract themselves go off on tangents, have moments and asides then have to come back on for an encore because they didn’t actually ever get to the point. Although certainly planned and undoubtedly clever, this can be tiresome and a little disconcerting.

On the whole, Ferry offers up a fascinating insight into an industry (for that is truly what it was) about which I for one knew very little. Rather than provide a dry historical account, her imaginative spice makes this a hugely readable book. Her ideas about what might have gone behind closed doors add both colour and interest and help the reader to identify with characters that may otherwise have felt aloof and unreachable. She offers a fly on the wall view of events and invites you to a seat at several high powered dinner tables as the story unfolds.

You can purchase your copy here ~

Thank you to Julie Ferry and Aurum Press for the ARC copy for review.

We are running a Twitter giveaway ~ head over to our Twitter Page and see the pinned post.

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Book Blog, Guest Reviews

Buy Buy Baby By @HelenMacKinven @cranachanbooks #Guest Review J A Warnock

Buy Buy Baby By Helen MacKinven
Cranachan Publishing July 2016
Guest Review: J A Warnock 

 

The Review

If (like me) the thought of really getting inside a woman’s head fills you with abject horror, I suggest you stop reading now. There is absolutely nothing to see here; please move along. I have never before read a book that captures so well a woman’s contradictions, vulnerabilities, irationalities, sheer resourcefulness and force of will. At times the characters in Buy Buy Baby baffled me as much as many of my female friends and at points had me trying to shake some sense into them through the pages of my Kindle.

Speaking of Kindle, my review is of a relatively early Kindle draft which contained a couple of continuity blips which left me a little confused. Many thanks to the author for taking the time to answer my questions and for reasuring me that I wasn’t going mad. As they were all ironed out in the final draft, there is no need to dwell on them (or my sanity) here.

Buy Buy Baby is a character driven novel which often looks at events from multiple perspectives. This can have the effect of making progress a little slow but I like the twisting interpretations that this provides. I am the first to admit that what I think is not necessarily what I say or do and it is nice to see this reality captured in a book.

The structure of Buy Buy Baby should also be commended. Helen MacKinven takes two very different characters with completely different motivations and presents them with the same dilemma. This makes the moral questions more apparent and will make the reader question how they might have responded in similar circumstances. Without giving too much away, I was please to see that their responses weren’t always moulded to stereotypical type.

In summary, this isn’t really my sort of book but there were elements I enjoyed and I found much to commend. If this is your cup of tea then I am sure you will love it.

J A Warnock

Buy Buy Baby By Helen MacKinven

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What price tag would you put on a baby?

Set in and around Glasgow, Buy Buy Baby is a moving and funny story of life, loss and longing.
Packed full of bitchy banter, it follows the bittersweet quest of two very different women united by the same desire – they desperately want a baby.

Carol talks to her dog, has an expensive eBay habit and relies on wine to forget she’s no longer a mum following the death of her young son.

Cheeky besom Julia is career-driven and appears to have it all. But after disastrous attempts at internet dating, she feels there is a baby-shaped hole in her life.
In steps Dan, a total charmer with a solution to their problems.

But only if they are willing to pay the price, on every level…

Purchase your copy ~ Amazon UK

Huge thanks to Helen and Cranachan for the ARC copy for review.

We are running a Twitter giveaway ~ head over to our Twitter Page and see the pinned post.

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Book Blog, Book Reviews

The Health of Strangers by Lesley Kelly @lkauthor @sandstonepress #ReviewbyKelly

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I am delighted that’s it’s Love Books Groups, stop on the blog tour for Health of Strangers by Lesley Kelly.

I’ve had the pleasure to meet Lesley on a few occasions and she’s incredibly engaging and so kind.  This year at Noir@TheBar Edinburgh #2 I heard Lesley read from her first novel, A Fine House In Trinity and her reading was filled with such passion and character. It definitely resonated and stayed with me, at an Authors lunch I was surprised to learn that Lesley had been a stand up comedian. Which totally explained her memorable performance at the event.

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The Cover:

It’s fabulous, gritty, and creepy ~ everything that jumps out and says READ me!!

My Thoughts

I am always intrigued by books set in my home city of Edinburgh, and even more so by the  altered world that The Health Of Strangers is set. It’s a post viral Edinburgh and now The Health Enforcement Team, have to keep on their toes to keep it safe!

It may sound a little far fetched, but you would be wrong. I could totally relate to the situation with all bugs and virus’s that have plagued the world over recent years, something could happen anywhere. So getting myself into the mindset of what had happened was easy.

The book is well paced and you learn new things with each chapter. Get to know Mona and Bernard as they work had to keep the City safe. Go with them on a dark and mysteries journey as they try to find the two missing students

I recommend the book, it’s different in a great way, Lesley Kelly has a knack of leaving you wanting more.  Which is great as the next book in series is Songs By Dead Girls and it will be coming in 2018

Back Of The Book

Nobody likes the North Edinburgh Health Enforcement Team, least of all the people who work for it. An uneasy mix of seconded Police and health service staff, Mona, Bernard and their colleagues stem the spread of the Virus, a mutant strain of influenza, by tracking down people who have missed their monthly health check. Now two young female students are missing, raising question after question for the HET. Why were they drinking in a biker’s bar? Who are the mysterious Children of Camus cult? And why is the German government interfering in the investigation? Mona and Bernard need to fight their way through lies and intrigue, and find the missing girls – before anyone else does.51tp8YZ5-2L._SX325_BO1,204,203,200_

 

Thank you to Lesley Kelly and Sandstone Press for the opportunity to be on the tour and for my ARC copy of The Health Of Strangers

You can get your copy TODAY as it’s publication day! Amazon UK

Also available by Sandstone Press is Lesley Kelly’s first novel A Fine House In Trinity ~ Amazon UK

Thank you to Lesley Kelly and Sandstone Press for the opportunity to be on the tour and for my ARC copy of The Health Of Strangers.

We are running a Twitter giveaway ~ head over to our Twitter Page and see the pinned post.

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Book Reviews

Run For The Hills @CarlaCaruso79 @EscapePublisher #Review

Run For The Hills By Carla Caruso
Escape Publishing 01/05/2017

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My Review 

The Cover:

I read it via Kindle, but I, of course, had the cover for my review, it goes perfectly with the book.  Lovely and bright.

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My Thoughts

Bridie Porter is the runaway bride and run she does.  The book had an exciting pace and the tone of Australia was a nice surprise.  I liked the romance between Bridie and Cody. Although they both have a lot of baggage to deal with throughout the story.

The main emphasis really is you can run as far away from your problems but at the end of the day, they are still there.

It was an enjoyable read and I wouldn’t hesitate to pick up another Carla Caruso book. I would love to learn more about the brothers.

You can purchase your copy here  in eBook from ~ Amazon UK

Back Of The Book 

The Belshaw Brothers are back in Balkissoch…

Bridie Porter is wearing her Vera Wang gown and veil in the back of her wedding limo when she receives a compromising text about her hotelier groom. Panicked, she tells the driver to keep going and she flees from Melbourne to the small town of Balkissoch in the Adelaide Hills.

It’s the perfect pit-stop to hide from her ex and the press and to earn enough cash to stay out of sight. Unfortunately, the admin job she gets is for a wedding photography business and she’s had her fill with weddings lately. But it’s slim pickings on the work front in a town so teeny. And her new boss is strangely compelling…

After the rush and adrenaline of his job as an LA paparazzo, the last place Cody Belshaw wants to be is back in the small town where he grew up. But thanks to a clause in his father’s will that amounts to blackmail, Cody and his two brothers are stuck running a wedding business for at least a month. If there’s one thing that he’s learned in LA, however, it’s to keep business and pleasure very, very separate. Which makes his new admin employee the definition of temptation.

Bridie is desperate to stay anonymous. Cody seeks out secrets for a living. As they delve into the world of brides, boutonnières and dogs-as-best-men, both Cody and Bridie will have to decide if this is a fling…or forever.

Thanks to Carla Caruso and Escape Publishing for the review ARC and for being on my blog today.

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Book Reviews, Crime Fiction Takeover, Guest Reviews

Sewing The Shadows Together @Alisonbailliex @ matadorbooks Guest #Review By J A Warnock

Crime Fiction (2)

Review By J A Warnock
Sewing The Shadows Together By Alison Baillie ~ Matador Books ~ 07/08/2015

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‘Sewing the Shadows Together’ by Alison Baillie is a masterclass in simplicity. The pace is exquisite. The story is entirely straight forward and elegantly told.

Baillie seems perfectly comfortable in the role of storyteller and relies on the strength of her characters and plot to keep the reader engaged.  There are no clever for the sake of clever narrative tricks. There is no convoluted timeline or staccato structure designed to daze and confuse.  There is a measured reasonableness which I found extremely refreshing.
This feeling of reasonableness is not limited to stucture but is also present in the plot.  I found that suspicions, worries and doubts expressed by the characters often matched my own thoughts as I read. A thought might occur to me and appear to be corroborated by a discovery a few pages later only to be disproved or confirmed by later events. I felt there were just the right number of clues to string the reader along and keep things interesting.
Much of the story is set in either Portobello or Edinburgh and the atmosphere of both locations is accurately captured. I will admit it triggered feelings of nostalgia for my own youth which shared many locations mentioned in the book though my vanity forces me to add I inhabited these streets some years after Baillie’s characters.
As the story unfolds old crimes and old feelings are intertwined. If you want to know if they are reconciled or resolved, you will have to read ‘Sewing the Shadows Together’ for yourself.  Highly recommended.

From The Back Of The Book 

Can you ever get over the death of your sister? Or of your best friend? More than 30 years after 13-year-old Shona McIver was raped and murdered in Portobello, the seaside suburb of Edinburgh, the crime still casts a shadow over the lives of her brother Tom and her best friend Sarah. When modern DNA evidence shows that the wrong man was convicted of the crime, the case is reopened. So who did kill Shona? Sarah and Tom are caught up in the search for Shona’s murderer, and suspicions fall on family and friends. The foundations of Sarah’s perfect family life begin to crumble as she realises that nothing is as it appears. Dark secrets from the past are uncovered, and there is another death, before the identity of the real killer is finally revealed… Set in Edinburgh, the Outer Hebrides and South Africa, Sewing the Shadows Together is a thoroughly modern murder mystery that keeps the reader guessing to the end. Filled with characters who could easily be friends, family or people we work with, it asks the question: Do we ever really know the people closest to us?

Purchase your own copy at Amazon UK

Huge thanks to Alison Baillie for the advanced copy for review and for featuring on my blog today.

We are running a Twitter giveaway ~ head over to our Twitter Page and see the pinned post.

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Crime Fiction

Book Reviews, eBook Deal, Review

Finding Alison #DeirdreEustace @bwpublishing #Review

Finding Alison By Deirdre Eustace
Published By Black and White

My Review 

The Cover:

Sometimes with book covers, they don’t sync with the book. But with Finding Alison it’s a true fit. I like how they haven’t made the water a sparkling unrealistic blue.  It’s dirty and true to life. With the figure of women who is representing Alison, gazing out across the water. If I saw this in the bookstore or in Amazon would I be enticed to pick it up? I would say yes. With a recommendation from Carmel Harrington, it all fits together and it works.

My favourite Quote/Sentence:

The Sea was falling back into a grudging sleep, lazily licking and frothing the cliffs, it’s gluttonous appetite almost stated.

My Thoughts

I enjoyed the book and would recommend it to my friends. At its core, it is really about letting go of the things and events that keep us prisoner in our lives. Events beyond our control that emotionally scar us and hold us back from being happy and living life. Haunted by ghosts and old feelings and how we drag them along every day.

The main character is Alison, I really liked her and felt very connected to her from the start. She’s terribly flawed as a result of the past. Battling not only with her inner demons but with an emotionally damaged teenager, we go on a journey of love, loss and clarity. I took a lot from this book. It makes you reflect on what you carry from the past that you need to let go. I enjoyed Deirdre’s carefully constructed sentences and her true to life characters. People you could relate to and connect.

In a way, the book was a wake-up call for me. It taught me to live in the now, this very moment. To stop worrying about the what ifs and the future. What’s important is the now.  Also, it reminded me with a gentle nudge to make sure the people closest to me knew how much I love them.

This book is perfect for any time of year be it a sunny beach day or at home by the fire with a hot cuppa and a sneaky biscuit on a nippy day.

It’s currently only £1.00 on Amazon for the eBook at the time of this blog going live (29/6) You can get your copy here Amazon UK

Back Of The Book 

Grief and guilt. Love and resentment. A community divided.

No one in Carniskey has ever truly understood what led Sean Delaney, a seasoned local fisherman, to risk his life in a high storm in the dead of night. Now, three years on from that tragic night, his wife Alison is still struggling with her unresolved grief and increasing financial worries.

After three difficult years, Alison has grown distant from her daughter and estranged from her friends and fellow villagers, particularly her best friend Kathleen who harbours a deeply guarded secret of her own. Isolated by its stunning yet often cruel surroundings, this is a community used to looking after its own but the arrival of an outsider – artist and lifelong nomad, William – offers Alison a new perspective on life and love that threatens to unearth the mysteries of the past.

A story of courage and enduring humanity, Finding Alison follows the community through their struggles in love, loss and betrayal, each coming to understand that only in truth can we find the peace and liberation essential for true happiness.

Thank you to Lina L, at Black and White Publishing for the ARC and Deidre Eustace for the opportunity to be on the tour.

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Book Reviews, Kelly Talk

The Returning Tide @liz_fenwick @orionbooks #Review

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Two sisters and one betrayal that will carry across generations . . .

In wartime Cornwall, 1943, a story between two sisters begins – the story of Adele and Amelia, and the heart-breaking betrayal that will divide them forever. Decades later, the effects of one reckless act still echo – but how long will it be until their past returns?

The Returning Tide will sweep you away to the beautiful Cornish coast, full of secrets and mystery, perfect for fans of Kate Morton.

Liz Fenwick 

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@liz_fenwick Twitter

Writer, ex-pat expert, wife, mother of three, and dreamer turned doer….

Award-winning author of The Cornish House, A Cornish Affair, A Cornish Stranger and Under A Cornish Sky. After nine international moves, Liz is a bit of a global nomad. It’s no wonder her heart remains in Cornwall.

My Review ~ The Returning Tide ~ Liz Fenwick

 Published 23rd March 17, Orion Books 

Sometimes a book comes along and you know you were destined to read it. I purchased The Returning Tide in audiobook form. So I could listen whilst I worked.  The problem was I was getting no work done. I was hooked from chapter one. I really enjoyed the audiobook version but I read faster so I took to kindle to read during the day and on my evenings I listened to the audiobook.

The book flip-flops from the 1940’s to 2015, it’s a lovely switch that I really enjoyed. We are taken from Cornwall to Cape Cod, having been to both placesI was lucky to be able to be able to have the advantage of remembering the smells and scenes from my travels.

I fell in love with the characters, the paths that life (Liz Fenwick) chose for them. For once I didn’t know the ending of the book, the big reveal was shocking to me. I am usually pretty sure of how a book will end, but not with The Returning Tide, I found it very refreshing that the outcome was not rushed and that I to had to go through the journey with Adele, Lara, Amelia, Bobby and more.

A definite highlight of my year, it’s truly fantastic. I cried, laughed and broke with the characters.  I cannot wait to read Liz Fenwicks other reads

 

You can order your copy today of The Returning Tide ~ Amazon UK

Huge thanks to Liz Fenwick for the story and the characters. I will cherish them always. Thanks to Orion and Net Galley for my advanced copy to review. 

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Book Reviews, Kelly Talk

The Confusion Of Languages @SiobhanMFallon @PutnamBooks @NetGalley #Review

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Both Cassie Hugo and Margaret Brickshaw dutifully followed their soldier husbands to the U.S. embassy in Jordan, but that’s about all the women have in common. After two years, Cassie’s become an expert on the rules, but newly arrived Margaret sees only her chance to explore. So when a fender-bender sends Margaret to the local police station, Cassie reluctantly agrees to watch Margaret’s toddler son. But as the hour’s pass, Cassie’s boredom and frustration turn to fear: Why isn’t Margaret answering her phone, and why is it taking so long to sort out a routine accident? Snooping around Margaret’s apartment, Cassie begins to question not only her friend’s whereabouts but also her own role in Margaret’s disappearance.

With achingly honest prose and riveting characters, The Confusion of Languages plunges readers into a shattering collision between two women and two worlds, affirming Siobhan Fallon as a powerful voice in American fiction and a storyteller not to be missed.

My Review 

So the past few days I went on a surprising journey to the Middle East, over the period of an Arab Spring. With the book The Confusion Of Languages, I don’t think I have ever read about Jordan so everything was new to me.  First, of I should say how easy of a read this is, it is not packed with ever long descriptions or filled with unknown or difficult languages. Because the story is based on two American families living in the U.S Embassy in Jordan. It’s there story we hear.

I enjoyed both of the main characters, Cassie and Margaret. We hear things from both of their points of view. Which made it very interesting. I didn’t have a side. I couldn’t possibly pick.  You will see what I mean when you read it.

It was rather intriguing to learn about the different culture differences. What you should and should not wear, say and even where to look.  This is not a story of war either, of course, it’s there in the background.  But at the story’s core is the women and their lives.

With a surprising twist at the end, the book kept me engrossed and entertained from start to finish.

I read the book on kindle, but I googled the cover and it’s beautiful. It stands out and it’s very pretty. The title fits perfectly with the story.

The book is released on Amazon on the 27th of June. You can preorder your copy here: Amazon UK

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Thank you to @SiobhanMFallon @PutnamBooks @NetGalley for my advanced copy to review.

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Book Reviews

The Other Us @FiHarper_Author @HQStories #Review

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If you could turn back time, would you choose a different life?

Forty-something Maggie is facing some hard truths. Her only child has flown the nest for university and, without her daughter in the house, she’s realising her life, and her marriage to Dan, is more than a little stale.

When she spots an announcement on Facebook about a uni reunion, she can’t help wondering what happened to Jude Hanson. The same night Dan proposed, Jude asked Maggie to run away with him, and she starts to wonder how different her life might have been if she’d broken Dan’s heart and taken Jude up on his offer.

Wondering turns into fantasising, and then one-morning fantasising turns into reality. Maggie wakes up and discovers she’s back in 1992 and twenty-one again. Is she brave enough to choose the future she really wants, and if she is, will the grass be any greener on the other side of the fence?

Two men. Two very different possible futures. But is there only once chance at happiness?

Buy your copy:

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Fiona Harper 

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As a child, Fiona was constantly teased for two things: having her nose in a book and living in a dream world. Things haven’t changed much since then, but at least she’s found a career that puts her runaway imagination to use!

Fiona lives in London with her husband and two teenage daughters (oh, the drama in her house!), and she loves good books, good films and anything cinnamon flavoured. She also can’t help herself if a good tune comes on and she’s near a dance floor – you have been warned!

Fiona loves to hear from readers and you can contact her through her website fionaharper.com, her Facebook page (Fiona Harper Author) or Twitter (@FiHarper_Author).

 

My Review

Yet another new Author discovery for me, Fiona Harper, and boy of boy what a gem! The Other Us is akin to the theme of the movie Sliding Doors. If you had the chance to go back and change your life’s path would you? Knowing that everything you knew and had lived would change and even may not exist.

With a lovely set of characters, Fiona makes the reader care about Maggie almost from the first page, we can relate to her issues, the mundane everyday slump that can happen in most marriages. When life becomes set in a routine and we forget that like all things, marriage does take work. Whether it be day one or day one thousand, communicating and caring, have to take priority.

Fiona Harper makes so many important, thought provoking situations in The Other Us, That I had to stop and think about my life and how and what I would do if I were in them. At first, you think yes that would be super, I could make right all my bad choices. But then you see clearly that x wouldn’t happen if B hadn’t happened and then you wouldn’t have a b c in your life. So on and so fourth.  So maybe all the crappy moments, make us who we are and we are destined to go down a certain path.

This will be my first of many of Ms. Harpers novels,  it was funny, emotional and extremely absorbing.  One of those books, that you stop reading and put on the nightstand and then for 10 – 20 mins you are sitting thinking about it the book and dissecting the characters choices.  That was me and it was thoroughly enjoyable.

My thanks to Fiona Harper and Rebekah @HQStories for my Arc copy.

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Book Reviews, Kelly Talk

One Little Mistake @emmacurtisbooks @TransworldBooks #Review

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Vicky Seagrave is blessed: three beautiful children, a successful, doting husband, great friends and a job she loves. She should be perfectly happy.

When she makes a split-second decision that risks everything she holds dear, there’s only person she trusts enough to turn to.

But Vicky is about to learn that one mistake is all it takes; that if you’re careless with those you love, you don’t deserve to keep them . . .

My Review 

This book was very enjoyable, it had me hooked from the very start. Emma Curtis creates a nice loving cosy environment at the start then gradually smacks you upside your head with dose of cold hard, gritty and unnerving truths!!

There were parts of the book that made me very uncomfortable, but that’s what they are there for and they are needed to establish the core of the story. This is not butterflies and pretty rainbow’s book. The book had a splash of everything, romance, crime, and thriller. A trickle of topics for everyone’s literary tastebuds.

I enjoyed the characters in the book, with my loyalty as a reader and spectator flip-flopping from one to another, at the switch of a chapter change.  I found the pace of the book perfect. I was never bored and I felt no need to skim read. I wanted to savour every well-written sentence.

One tiny little non-important fun fact I noticed was Emma Curtis’s use of the phrase ~ frying meat and onions. It must be a favourite scent of Emma’s as she uses it in three different places in the book.

I am hoping that this is going to be a series of books.  There is so much more I want to know about the other characters in the book.  Jenny, Magda for example, what goes on behind their closed doors after the events of Vicky and Amber!

Last but not least, my thoughts on the cover. I really think it fits in perfect with the story and gives nothing away.

So I encourage you to dive into this novel, One Little Mistake, is a refreshing read with lot’s of thought provoking topics.

At the time of this review going live the cost on amazon for eBook is only £1.99. You can purchase your copy here: Amazon UK

Huge thanks too, Emma Curtis, Transworld Books and Netgalley for my review copy. 

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