The French for Always – Fiona Valpy

The French for Always – Fiona Valpy

I have never read anything by this author before so was delighted to discover that this was a wonderfully romantic and uplifting story that I didn’t want to end.

We are introduced to Sara and her fiancé Gavin who have sold up everything they have in England and put all their money into lovingly restoring an old chateau in the village in Bordeaux, France. The idea is to use the romantic venue to host weddings. Sara is feeling a little unsure about Gavin at the beginning of the book as she’s not sure that they will have their own happily ever after. This is proved to be true as at the first wedding that they host, Sara discovers Gavin making love to one of the bridesmaids after the ceremony. Distraught and heartbroken, Sara throws herself into the work of trying to create the perfect day for other couples.

The chapters alternated between detailing what was happening in Sara’s life and then focussing on five of the weddings that Sara hosts at Chateau Bellevue, each one presenting its own problems that need solving and which Sara manages to tackle each time. The reader also discovers about life in the tiny village that Sara lives in where it seems everyone knows everyone else’s business which can be both a blessing and a curse. Sara also discovers the history of the chateau which hints tantalisingly at the triumphs and sorrows that the chateau has witnessed.

I adored this book, the descriptions of place and feeling were sublime and lyrical and transported me to this wonderful fictional chateau which seemed to have a magical atmosphere. The friendships that Sara cultivates throughout the novel are wonderfully portrayed and it seems that the chateau has its own spell of romance in store for Sara when she becomes close to Thomas who works with her as a DJ at each wedding reception.

I enjoyed inhabiting this beautiful, welcoming book that left me wanting to visit and discover the fascinating landscapes that are described. If you want a story filled with love, warmth, friendship and laughter I urge you to read this fabulous book.

The French for Always Book Cover The French for Always
Fiona Valpy
Bookouture
23/04/2014
260

Five weddings. The perfect venue. One little hitch… 

Leaving the grey skies of home behind to transform a crumbling French Château into a boutique wedding venue is a huge leap of faith for Sara. She and fiancé Gavin sink their life savings into the beautiful Château Bellevue – set under blue skies and surrounded by vineyards in the heart of Bordeaux. 

After months of hard work, the dream starts to become a reality – until Gavin walks out halfway through their first season. Overnight, Sara is left very much alone with the prospect of losing everything. 

With her own heart breaking, Sara has five weddings before the end of the season to turn the business around and rescue her dreams. With the help of the locals and a little French couragecan she save Château Bellevue before the summer is over? 

Gone – Anna Bloom

Gone – Anna Bloom

As a massive fan of Anna’s earlier work, The Uni Files and falling completely for Ben and Lilah her two main characters, I approached Gone with some trepidation as I was worried that I wouldn’t find as deep an emotional connection with these new characters as Ben and Lilah. I needn’t have worried though as Anna’s beautiful writing has created a whole new world with Bex and Josh who I completely fell for.

Gone opens with Rebecca (Bex) who, for some unknown reason, has had to move with her family (Mum, Dad and her younger sister Emily) from London to Bridge Cottage in the beautiful little town of St Agnes in Cornwall. It is clear right from the beginning that Bex is running away from something painful and it is revealed that she only has 14 days to get through before she can leave her family and start afresh at University.

As she only has 14 days it comes as a complete shock to her that she meets a fantastically gorgeous guy called Joshua on the beach and then later again in an art supply shop in the town. At first this man seems rude but Bex can’t resist this dreadlocked surfer who shimmers as if he were made of the moon.

Through alternate chapters narrated by Bex and Josh (dreadlock boy) we discover the instant attraction both these characters feel towards each other and the added frisson of knowing that Bex will be leaving in 14 days adds to the tension of this complicated yet beautiful relationship.

This is an absolutely enchanting book and I adore Anna’s lyrical descriptions of setting and character and she is a writer who can make you laugh and cry all on the same page. I was completely transported to Cornwall and become so enveloped in Bex and Josh’s world that when I looked up from reading I was surprised (and disappointed) to discover they didn’t exist.

This is not a simple, traditional love story though, there are real issues dealt with in a completely sensitive way including bullying, drugs, social media and how pain can set people on self-destructive courses in several different ways.

You must read this wonderfully warm, thrilling and enchanting story that is uplifting and satisfying and prepare to fall in love with the girl made of the sun and the boy made of the moon. Absolutely stunning.

Gone Book Cover Gone
Anna Bloom
26/07/2014
289

Rebecca Walters harbours a dark secret, and as the fifty-three bangles she wears on her wrists as a self-imposed sentence of guilt remind her, she can’t even begin to consider moving on. Not after what happened on that night six months ago… a night which she can’t remember and yet managed to change her life forever. 

When Rebecca comes across Joshua Adams, man equally haunted by past tragedies, on a moonlit beach, both of their lives are destined to change, and when the girl made out of the sun meets the boy made out of the moon and sea, anything can happen… but will the knowledge of their murky pasts bring them together or drive them apart? 

Will Rebecca finally be able to claim her freedom? Will she stay and fight to be the girl she found on the sandy beaches of Cornwall or is she destined to keep running and hiding from a past that won’t stay Gone? One thing’s for certain: either way, nothing will ever be the same again 

GONE is a mature Young Adult Novel and is only suitable for readers over the age of 16

Palmetto Moon – Kim Boykin

Palmetto Moon – Kim Boykin

I am completely new to this author but I am so glad I read this book as I have discovered an author that can write beautifully and vividly about love, passion, independence and women’s choices in a vastly changing world in America in 1947.

Vada (I love this name as I’ve never heard it before yet think it suits the main character perfectly) Hadley is the daughter of a prosperous family in Charleston, America in 1947 and it is the eve of her wedding to Julian McLeod and yet she is unsure that marriage and settling down is what she wants in life so with the help of Desmond and Rosa Lee, her family’s servants, she runs away to the tiny town of Round O where shockingly for the times, she plans to earn her living as a teacher. It is here that she meets diner owner Frank Darling and so begins a wonderfully sweet and old-fashioned romance although Vada’s past eventually comes back to haunt her and she must make some difficult decisions about what she really wants to do with her life.

I really enjoyed how this novel explored the difficulty that women faced in 1940s America about being treated as an equal to a man and the struggles that they had to go through if they had other ambitions in life other than making a good marriage. I loved the feistiness and independence of Vada and her sense of what is right and wrong and the blossoming of her romance with Frank was elegantly and beautifully portrayed.

The only little thing that bothered me about the book is how the point of view changed quite frequently, sometimes even in the same scene which took a few moments to work out whose viewpoint is being shown but I did like how this enabled me as a reader to understand the thoughts and feelings of the characters.

There were so many unexpected things dealt with in the book including homosexuality and life in a brothel but they were all weaved in seamlessly with the story. I would highly recommend this book if you enjoy a wonderfully innocent and sweet romance story with vividly drawn characters and wonderfully depicted landscapes.

Giveaway

Charleston gift basket (US only) and a copy of Palmetto Moon (International)

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Excerpt

Charleston, SC

June 20, 1947

Murrah?” Rosa Lee’s eyes go wide and she shakes her head at me like I’ve forgotten the rules, but I haven’t. Since before I was born, my parents forbade the servants to speak their native tongue in our house. Offenders were given one warning; a second offense brought immediate dismissal. I say the Gullah word again, drawing it out softly. “Why are you crying?” The hands that helped bring me into the world motion for me to lower my voice.

Rosa Lee’s husband, Desmond, told me my first word was murrah. It was what I called Rosa Lee, until Mother made me call her by name. “My own murrah.” The forbidden words bring more tears. I press my face into the soft curve of her neck and breathe in the Ivory soap Mother insists all the servants use, mingled with Rosa Lee’s own scent—vanilla and lemongrass.

She holds me at arm’s length, trembling, and I know I’ve done it again.

“You got to tell them,” she pleads. “Make them see you can’t go through with this.”

I point to the door that leads to the elegant dining room where my parents are eating their breakfast. “I have told them. Mother refuses to listen, and I’ve begged Father. He says I have to do this.” She looks away. Her body rocks, sobbing violently on the inside. “Rosa Lee, please don’t cry. I can’t bear it.” She shakes her head and swipes at the tears that stain the sleeve of her freshly pressed uniform. “I won’t do it again. I promise.”

“When you’re asleep, your heart takes over. You got no control, and it’s gonna kill you.”

She’s right. Since I graduated and moved home from college two weeks ago, I’ve been sleepwalking like I did when I was a child, but these outings don’t land me snuggled up in the servant’s quarters, between Desmond and Rosa Lee. Most of the time, I wake up and return to bed without incident, but last week Desmond found me trying to leave the house. He said I was babbling about sleeping in the bay, which might not have been so disturbing if I hadn’t been wearing five layers of heavy clothing. I knew what he thought I was trying to do to myself and told him not to worry.

Since then, Rosa Lee has insisted on sleeping on the stiff brocade chaise in my bedroom. Of course, my parents don’t know she’s there or that she’s so afraid I’ll walk to the bay or step off the balcony in my sleep, she’s tethered my ankle to the bedpost with three yards of satin rope she begged from Mrs. O’Doul.

“Maybe it will be different after the wedding.” I love her enough to lie to her. “Father says I’m a Hadley and once it’s over with, I’ll fall in line the way I was born to.”

“But what if Desmond hadn’t caught you?” She threads her fingers in mine and kisses the back of my hand. A part of me wishes her intuition hadn’t sent Desmond to check on me, that he hadn’t found me. “And what are you gonna do when we’re not there?”

“Don’t say that.” My knees buckle, and I melt into a puddle at her feet. Justin has made it clear he’s happy with his staff and has no plans to add “two ancient servants.” But living under his roof and not having Rosa Lee and Desmond with me is unthinkable, another high price of being the last Hadley descendant.

“You think it’s not going to get worse after you’re married? Who do you think’s gonna be there to save you? Mr. Justin?” She hisses the last word. “You think long and hard before the sun comes up tomorrow, because I’m afraid down to my bones that you won’t be alive

to see it.”

She collects herself and heads into the dining room to check on my parents. They won’t look into her beautiful brown face and see she’s been crying any more than they see this wedding is killing me, or at least the idea of being yoked to Justin McLeod is. Not because he’s eight years older than me and, other than our station in life, we have nothing in common, and not because of his good qualities, although no one can find more than two: He is a heart-stoppingly beautiful man and the sole heir of the largest fortune in Charleston.

For over a hundred years, Justin’s family and mine have built ships. And while two world wars made us rich, a prolonged peace threatens to weaken our family fortunes considerably. Somewhere in all that, my father convinced Justin a Hadley-McLeod union would position them to take over the world, at least the shipping world. And Father is certain nothing short of a blood union will keep Justin in the partnership.

Rosa Lee pushes through the swinging door and pours the coffee down the drain, her signal that breakfast is over and my parents are no longer close by. I smile, trying to reassure her I’m okay, that I’m going to be okay. She shakes her head and starts to wash one of the breakfast plates in slow motion, barely breathing. I hate those things, and after tomorrow, I’ll own twenty-four place settings of them, part of my dowry. I don’t give a damn about thousand-dollar plates, but I do care for Rosa Lee.

“I can do this.” I say from behind her. My voice sounds sure, steady. “I will do this.”

“You and I both know you can’t walk down that aisle. Dear God in heaven, Vada, tell them.” Her head is down, and she says the last two words like a prayer. “Make them see so they’ll put a stop to this foolishness.”

There’s no point. I’ve begged my parents, told them I can’t marry Justin, because I don’t love him. I’ve told them I feel nothing for him, not love, not even hate. Even after I told my

father about the other women, he shrugged and said I was being ridiculous. “There are no fairy-tale marriages, Vada. Know your place, your purpose. Marry. Procreate. Continue the lineage. That’s your job.”

This archaic arrangement is not the job I want or the one I applied for. My heart races at the thought of how furious my parents would be if they knew my favorite professor recommended me for a teaching position, not in a posh boarding school but a two-room schoolhouse near a tiny crossroads community. Mother would fume silently while Father would remind me that no Hadley woman has ever worked.

But it’s 1947 for goodness’ sake. What did they expect when they sent me away to college, that I would learn everything except how to think for myself? The swell of defiance is snuffed out by Justin’s testy voice in the foyer. “Well, I am here now, madam. What do you want?”

I can’t make out what my mother is saying and slip behind the dining-room door. From the way I peer at them through the crack between the jamb, she looks tiny compared to him, but she emanates such presence. Justin has the posture of a rebellious teenager.

“It’s about Vada, and I am not talking about this here.” She points toward the study. He eyes her for a moment, knowing full well the drawing room is a woman’s place, the study a man’s domain for brandy and smelly cigars.

I can hardly breathe as she leads Justin into the study. Maybe she did listen. Maybe she’s finally going to tell Justin the wedding is off. The door to the study is slightly ajar. I slip off my shoes and tiptoe across the foyer to hear her say the words I’ve longed for since I was fourteen and learned about this horrible arrangement.

“You have me up before noon for this?” Justin is glaring at her, but she’s so strong, so beautiful. She’s not intimidated in the least.

“You must understand that Vada is a young girl, barely twenty. I heard the things she told her father. Your carousing.”

“My carousing?” he laughs and runs his hands through his short dark hair.

“Yes. The parties. The women. After the engagement, I thought you would change, settle down. Surely you don’t expect to carry on as usual after the wedding.”

Justin is no longer amused. His face is red, the veins in his forehead pronounced. “Let me remind you, madam, after tomorrow, I may be your daughter’s husband, but I’ll carry on at my own discretion, not yours, not your husband’s, and certainly not your Vada’s.”

Their standoff is palpable. Mother throws her hands up in disgust. “I shouldn’t even have to have this conversation with you, Justin, but Vada is extremely unhappy, and the very least you could do is try to be more accommodating.”

“More accommodating?”

“Just tell me, what is it going to take?”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Your price. To be a proper husband. Doting. Monogamous.” She draws the last word out.

“Trust me, madam, you don’t have enough money.” He stands and straightens the sleeves of his suit. “We’re done here.”

“Justin.” My mother grabs his arm. He towers over her. “Don’t hurt her.”

Her steely look is returned with amusement. “My dear Mrs. Hadley, for Vada or me to get hurt, one of us would actually have to care about this union. Tomorrow we marry together two fortunes for the greater good. Nothing more.”

“But you expect her to be a proper wife?”

“Of course. Why shouldn’t she?”

“Your level of arrogance is remarkable, Justin, even for you. Get out of my house.”

He makes an exaggerated bow. “Good day, Mrs. Hadley.”

The door opens, and Justin stands there for a moment, looking at my tearstained face. He sighs and pushes past me. “Really, Vada, after tomorrow, I’ll expect you to be more presentable in the mornings.”

I’ve honored Mrs. O’Doul’s refusal to talk about Darby for three years now, but with the wedding looming, the loss feels fresh, and I can’t help myself. “I miss her.”

Mrs. O’Doul gives me a hard look to remind me of our silent agreement not to talk about her daughter, my best friend. She nods curtly as she scrutinizes my dress, which she’s had to take in, again, for the rehearsal party. “You’ll be a good wife. You’ll make your ma and da proud.”

I shake my head at my reflection and the exquisite design that looks funny with my bare feet. “Maybe it’s best Darby’s not here. She’d be so ashamed of me.”

“Who knows where that girl is now? And, to be sure, she’d be ashamed if she showed her face around here, but not because you’re marrying Justin McLeod, I can tell you that.”

“She’s your daughter. You can’t still be mad at her.”

Another stern look reminds me Mrs. O’Doul lost more than a daughter when Darby was run out of town for her tryst with Mr. McCrady. But Mrs. McCrady didn’t stop there. She made sure Mrs. O’Doul’s wealthy clients boycotted her dressmaking business. Darby’s mother lost everything: her daughter, her shop, her apartment. My parents fussed when I insisted on Mrs. O’Doul altering my trousseau, but Mrs. O’Doul said it brought some of her

customers back, the only good thing that has come from this wedding plan.

She smooths her hands down the seams of the ivory bodice and inspects a tiny pucker. “Damn beads.” She works the seam with her fingers until it lies flat, then steps back and inspects the dress. Her smile is thin, almost sad. “I remember every dress I ever made for you. And now look at you, wearing couture since you were sixteen. Getting married tomorrow in the finest dress I’ve ever seen.”

She’s right. I’ve always had a shameless love for beautiful clothes, even more so for shoes. But when Mrs. O’Doul made something for me, it meant going to Habberman’s on King Street. She always said Darby and me went together like grits and gravy, she couldn’t very well take one of us shopping without taking the other. While she selected the perfect material for my dress, we played hide-and-seek among the tall bolts leaned against the walls. Sometimes we sorted through bins of loose buttons or rhinestones and talked about what our lives would be like when we grew up.

As I got older, I worried that Darby would be jealous of the dresses her mother made for me. I know I would have been. But Darby said she didn’t care—they were just dresses, and we were best friends, the grits-and-gravy kind.

The other girls Darby grew up with wanted nothing to do with her after I went away to college. She gave up a lot to be my friend, and how did I repay her? I didn’t make time to phone her or return her letters. I was so wrapped up in things that didn’t matter, I forgot about the one person who mattered most to me. And by the time I heard Darby had been banished from Charleston, I was too ashamed of what I’d done, of the way I treated her, to try to find her, to tell her how very sorry I was.

“You’re a stunning young woman, Vada Hadley, and that dress—”

“The clothes you made, they were just as beautiful, and they meant something to me.”

She scoffs and puts her tools away, satisfied that my dress looks the way Jacques Fath intended when he designed it. “You’ll not find the likes of this fabric on King Street, I can promise you that. And if you did, I wouldn’t know where to begin to make something this . . . perfect. And your wedding dress? Even grander, Vada. Really.” She pushes a strand of hair behind my ear. “You’re going to be a beautiful bride.”

All through the rehearsal and this ridiculous party, everyone has said those words to me, like somehow the way I look will determine the outcome of this union. But nothing changes the fact that this is a mistake.

The canvas of the massive white tent billows a little, and the night air is damp and thick. Well-wishing men dab at their foreheads with handkerchiefs, and little beads of sweat line the lips of pretty women who are sweltering in the late-June heat. But even their intrusions can’t hold my attention from the Ashley as it flows past Middleton Place. I can’t stop looking at the river, thinking about it. Where does it go? To Edisto? To Savannah? Does it matter? It’s free, unencumbered by family and duty.

“Tears of joy?” Justin’s famous second cousin, Josephine, dabs at my face. I shake my head and turn my attention back to the river. “Middleton Place is stunning. And while I do have El Dorado, in my bones I know this plantation shouldn’t have ended up with the McLeods, least of all Justin. But the gods split the lot the way they saw fit. Perhaps they intended for it to be your consolation prize.”

“Does it console you, Miss Pinckney?” I ask.

“Words console me.”

“Of course they do, your books. The movie.”

She laughs and shakes her head. “Yes, the movie. Well, I don’t think Three O’Clock Dinner will ever make its way to the theater, my dear. I hear Lana Turner’s off again, to Mexico this time, vacationing with Tyrone Power, and who knows who it will be next? Those Hollywood folks don’t know what they want, not really. Besides, I don’t need a consolation prize. But you? I’m not so sure.”

Most of the women here would kill for Josephine Pinckney’s lineage alone, much less her present status as the darling of the literary world. They comfort themselves with catty remarks and whisper that she’s plain and was never beautiful. But even in the moonlight, there’s something about her knowing look and those piercing eyes that make her stunning and powerful.

“Walk with me?” she says.

I nod and step toward the grassy steps that lead to the river and away from the party. Breaking a heel is the least of my worries, but instinctively I tiptoe across the boards that stretch out across the water, and Miss Pinckney does the same. The river makes a swishing sound and cuts hard around the posts that anchor the dock into the muddy bottom, and the waxing crescent of the Palmetto moon dips low across the marsh grass. A fish skips like a stone over the top of the silvery black water, and for the first time tonight, I feel like I can breathe.

“Run out—run out from the insane gold world, softly clanging the gate lest any follow.” I’m not sure if she’s quoting her books or one of her poems, but even in my hopelessness, I feel her silent prodding.

“I don’t want this.”

She’s quiet for a beat. “What do you want, Vada?”

“What I can’t have.”

“Something you can’t have. Really? The only child of Matthew and Katherine Hadley? I speak from experience as an only child born into the pinnacle of this caste system we live in, there’s nothing you can’t have.”

“You’re—wrong.” The sob building inside threatens to turn me inside out, so everyone can see the truth that doesn’t seem to matter to anybody. Not my parents, not Justin, and least of all the party lemmings.

“Then what is it?”

I’m shivering in this heat, teeth chattering, unable to answer. All I can do is point to the river as it flows away from this horrible mess and escapes toward the ocean.

“You are wrong, Vada Hadley.” She wraps her silk stole around me and kisses my tearstained cheek. “You can have anything you want.”

About the Author

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Kim Boykin was raised in her South Carolina home with two girly sisters and great parents. She had a happy, boring childhood, which sucks if you’re a writer because you have to create your own crazy. PLUS after you’re published and you’re being interviewed, it’s very appealing when the author actually lived in Crazy Town or somewhere in the general vicinity.

Almost everything she learned about writing, she learned from her grandpa, an oral storyteller, who was a master teacher of pacing and sensory detail. He held court under an old mimosa tree on the family farm, and people used to come from all around to hear him tell stories about growing up in rural Georgia and share his unique take on the world.

As a stay-at-home mom, Kim started writing, grabbing snip-its of time in the car rider line or on the bleachers at swim practice. After her kids left the nest, she started submitting her work, sold her first novel at 53, and has been writing like crazy ever since.

Thanks to the lessons she learned under that mimosa tree, her books are well reviewed and, according to RT Book Reviews, feel like they’re being told across a kitchen table. She is the author of The Wisdom of Hair from Berkley, Steal Me, Cowboy and Sweet Home Carolina from Tule, and Palmetto Moon, also from Berkley 8/5/14. While her heart is always in the Lowcountry of South Carolina, she lives in Charlotte and has a heart for hairstylist, librarians, and book junkies like herself. 

http://kimboykin.com

Twitter @AuthorKimBoykin

Facebook Author Page

 

Palmetto Moon Book Cover Palmetto Moon
Kim Boykin
Berkley Books
05/08/2014
320

June, 1947. Charleston is poised to celebrate the biggest wedding in high-society history, the joining of two of the oldest families in the city. Except the bride is nowhere to be found…

Unlike the rest of the debs she grew up with, Vada Hadley doesn’t see marrying Justin McLeod as a blessing—she sees it as a life sentence. So when she finds herself one day away from a wedding she doesn’t want, she’s left with no choice but to run away from the future her parents have so carefully planned for her.

In Round O, South Carolina, Vada finds independence in the unexpected friendships she forms at the boarding house where she stays, and a quiet yet fulfilling courtship with the local diner owner, Frank Darling. For the first time in her life, she finally feels like she’s where she’s meant to be. But when her dear friend Darby hunts her down, needing help, Vada will have to confront the life she gave up—and decide where her heart truly belongs.

 

The Dress Thief – Natalie Meg Evans

The Dress Thief – Natalie Meg Evans

I know that judging a book by its cover is wrong but I completely adore the cover to this beautiful book. It’s evocative and the vibrant colour of the girl’s dress makes you want to reach out and touch the cover. It’s absolutely stunning and would definitely stand out on a bookshelf. Also after reading the book I can confirm that the inside of the book is as stunning as its cover.

The book opens in Alsace, Eastern France in 1903 and the reader is witness to the scene of a murder of the artist Alfred Lutzman although it is not revealed who is the murderer at this point. But the reader realises that this scene will become pivotal to the action of the rest of the book. Then in Chapter One the reader is introduced to Alix Gower who, it transpires, is the granddaughter of Alfred Lutzman and she is living in Paris in 1937 and has dreams of designing her own clothing collection. At the moment though, Alix is forced into making copies of exclusive designs so that fakes can be made. Alix realises this is wrong but poverty offers her no other choice. Then Alix gains a position in a famous fashion house, Javier’s ultimately with the goal of copying an entire fashion collection which leads to the beginning of her downfall both personally and professionally.

This is quite a long novel and I have to admit I found the first 100 pages or so a little slow going although I realise now that this was needed to set out the background for what will happen later in the story. The writing is beautiful and I felt myself transported to the contrasts of Paris in the 30s where there was great richness and extravagance alongside poverty and destitution.

The novel didn’t unfold the way I expected and there were a couple of surprises along the way which really worked for me as I was completely unprepared for them which made this an exciting read.

This is a fantastic story about deception, ambition and how they can create obstacles on the path to self-fulfilment and true love. The descriptive writing was outstanding and I loved how the author showed that a glamourous lifestyle can have a dark underside. I would highly recommend this beautiful book and can’t wait to see what this debut author produces next.

The Dress Thief Book Cover The Dress Thief
Natalie Meg Evans
Quercus
05/06/2014
592

Alix Gower has a dream: to join the ranks of Coco Chanel to become a designer in the high-stakes world of Parisian haute couture. But Alix also has a secret: she supports her family by stealing designs to create bootlegs for the foreign market. A hidden sketchbook and two minutes inside Hermès is all she needs to create a perfect replica, to be whisked off to production in New York.

Then Alix is given her big break - a chance to finally realize her dream in one of the most prominent Parisian fashion houses - but at the price of copying the breakthrough Spring Collection.

Knowing this could be her only opportunity, Alix accepts the arrangement. But when a mystery from her past resurfaces and a chance meeting has her falling into the arms of a handsome English war reporter, Alix learns that the slightest misstep - or misplaced trust - could be all it takes for her life to begin falling apart at the seams.

Posted on behalf of @jaustenrulesok: Sophia’s Secret – Julie Ryan

Posted on behalf of @jaustenrulesok: Sophia’s Secret – Julie Ryan

I love book titles with the word “secret” in them as they promise tales of mystery and intrigue and this book certainly delivers!.

The book begins with a scene from the perspective of a small boy about seven years old who has dared his friend to meet him at midnight. Whilst waiting for his friend, the little boy witnesses something so shocking and disturbing that will keep him away from priests and churches into adulthood and his friend never arrives. The reader will later be reintroduced to the little boy as a grown up as he himself becomes entwined with Kat’s journey back into the past.

The book then continues in the present day with Kat a woman who was sent from Greece when she was a little girl, to live with her aunt in England. After years of no contact at all from her Greek family, she receives an email from her grandmother to inform Kat that her mother has died. Kat decides to take her young daughter Izzy with her to Greece to say her final farewell to the mother she barely knew and to find out the secrets from her family’s past which have created shadows that are still being felt by Kat now. She also realises that there must be a reason why she has only bought her daughter with her and not her husband and as the book progresses, it is revealed that the state of Kat and her husband’s marriage is not at all healthy.

Whilst back on the island where she spent the first part of her life, Kat realises how much she misses the Greek island life and is given a dilemma when she discovers that she has inherited her mother’s house, does she make a new life with Izzy here or go back to England to recover her strained relationship with her husband?

The book is in several parts, each dealing with certain characters and time periods in Kat’s family to explain the mystery of why Kat was sent away at such a young age and the narrative is split between several characters which means a fast paced and intriguing read.

This book is the perfect summer read, there are family secrets, kidnappings, murder and romance so everything you could wish for in an addictive page turner of a book whilst you’re soaking up the sun. Yes, there are a few little details that may be a little far-fetched but that doesn’t detract at all from the emotional journey that the author takes the reader on. I loved this book so much I have just downloaded the first in the series: Jenna’s Journey for another thrilling ride!

 

Author Biography —Julie Ryan

Julie was born and brought up in a mining village near Barnsley in South Yorkshire. She graduated with a BA (hons) in French Language and Literature from Hull University. Since then she has lived and worked as a Teacher of English as a Foreign Language in France, Greece, Poland and Thailand. She now lives in rural Gloucestershire with her husband, son and a dippy cat with half a tail.  She is so passionate about books that her collection is now threatening to outgrow her house, much to her husband’s annoyance!

‘Jenna’s Journey’, her début novel set in Greece, a country to which she has a strong attachment, was published in 2013. The second novel in the Greek Island Mystery series,‘Sophia’s Secret,’ is due to be published in the summer of 2014.

Book links

Sophia’s Secret – www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00LFJGCWA

www.amazon.com/dp/B00LFJGCWA

Jenna’s Journey is FREE today on Amazon.

Sophia's Secret Book Cover Sophia's Secret
Julie Ryan
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This is the second book in the Greek Island Mystery series. Although each book is intended to be read as a standalone, some of the characters from the first book, ‘Jennas’s Journey’, do make an appearance. 
Kat has never understood why she was sent at the age of seven from Greece to live in England with her Aunt Tigi. When she receives an email from her grandmother, the first contact in over twenty years, informing her of her mother’s death, she knows this could be her last chance to find out the truth. Little by little she finds out the shocking facts as her grandmother opens her heart. It seems everyone has a secret to tell, not only her grandmother, as Manoli, her school friend, also harbours a guilty secret. Then there’s a twenty year old mystery to solve as well as a murder and what happened to the missing Church treasure?

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