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26 July 2021

Book Review: Captivating the Cynical Earl by Catherine Tinley *AD gifted

I was provided with a free ebook of Captivating the Cynical Earl by Catherine Tinley ahead of the blog tour.

It's a Monday, so it's time for a Mills & Boon! I couldn't resist requesting this one. Look at that brooding face on the cover, the sparkle in the heroines eye. Such a tease for the story within.

Captivating the Cynical Earl by Catherine Tinley Mills & Boon historical book cover

The cool, aloof earl

And the enchanting lady

For Jack Beresford, Earl of Hawkenden, emotional entanglements are the path to pain.

But when his brother brings his new wife and her best friend to his country home, everything changes. 

Lady Cecily Thornhill is both vibrant and beautiful, and Jack finds himself increasingly captivated by her sunny nature.

Yet he must resist her charms, for in a month she’ll be gone - unless his frozen heart thaws before then…

Amazon UK | Amazon US

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Source: Blog Tour | Review Copy

5 Word Review: Cynicism, family, friendship, secrets, love.


One Hot Cross Bun, please.

I know, I know, it's in the title. The Cynical Earl. But oh boy is Jack cynical. About everything. Business, family, love... I mean everything. I don't think I was quite prepared for the levels of cynicism, but it worked so darn well with the character, and made his development *chef's kiss*.

Cecily has a little cynicism herself, but she is also a bit of a ray of sunshine. She's hopeful even with her distrust, and she's a good and loyal person. If I'm honest, most of her cynicism is aimed at her mother and society, for when it comes to the love of her friend she on board and supportive. She's also headstrong and trying to to her best for those she loves.

Jack is just... Cynical about it all. He doesn't understand the concept of love, thinks that it's a fool's game. He's brooding and grumpy, but he's had a tough life. He focuses on his business and shuns pretty much all else. And he doesn't have the best opinion of women, and debutantes especially, at the beginning. He's a hot cross bun of the best type, because he comes to understand that perhaps his thinking was wrong. We love to see growth like this.

Also, look at the brooding on the cover! Such scowling from Jack, such lightness from Cecily. Honestly the cover is perfect for this book, and I think it captures the essence of the pair fantastically.

I loved that this felt like a slow burn, even when it wasn't. The forced proximity made everything so intense, made their passion burn that much faster. I like the way the story undulated between battles of wit and slow country life, society parties and intimate evenings. The mixed pace made it a delight to read, I loved the writing style. And the end? Well, that is about as fast paced as it could be! 

I loved this cynical, brooding romance, the slow melting of the characters. I'd happily read it again and will be seeking out more of Catherine Tinley's work!

Captivating the Cynical Earl by Catherine Tinley blog tour banner

Catherine Tinley is an award winning author of historical romance. She writes witty, heartwarming Regency love stories for Harlequin Mills & Boon. Her first book, Waltzing with the Earl, won the Rita Award for Best Historical Romance 2018, while Rags-to-Riches Wife won the RoNA Award for Best Historical Romance 2021.

She has loved reading and writing since childhood, and has a particular fondness for love, romance, and happy endings. After a career encompassing speech & language therapy, Sure Start, maternity campaigning and being President of a charity, she now manages a maternity hospital. She lives in Ireland with her husband, children, cats, and dog and can be reached at catherinetinley.com on facebook, twitter, and instagram.




19 July 2021

Book Review: The Housekeeper of Thornhallow Hall by Lotte R. James *AD gifted

I was provided with a free ebook of The Housekeeper of Thornhallow Hall ahead of the blog tour.

I featured The Housekeeper of Thornhallow Hall in a Book Beginnings post a couple of weeks ago and I revealed that I had high expectations... And those expectations were absolutely met. This is a wonderfully atmospheric historical romance.

The Housekeeper of Thornhallow Hall book cover Mills & Boon historical

She arrived as a housekeeper

Will she leave as a countess?

To some, Thornhallow Hall might be tarnished by tales of vengeance and ghosts, but to new housekeeper Rebecca Merrickson it represents independence and peace from her tumultuous past.

Until the estate’s owner, William Reid, the disappeared earl, unexpectedly returns…

After clashing with him over the changes she’s made to the house, Rebecca slowly unearths the memories that haunt brooding Liam — and her defiance gives way to a shockingly improper attraction to her master!

Amazon UK | Amazon US

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Source: Blog Tour | Review Copy

5 Word Review: Secrets, history, family, trust, love.


This was the historical romance I needed right now, full of atmosphere and passion. It was excellent.

I really liked Rebecca's character - she's messy and headstrong and proud. She takes great pride in herself and the households she runs, even if she does break the rules. She's sassy with it sometimes, Rebecca has secrets, and I liked the slow unravelling of them and they way their built her character. Despite the secrets she keeps, she has a wonderful sense of integrity, and it was very endearing.

The simmering attraction between Rebecca and Liam is almost palpable. Every time they were close their was intense lust between them, the kind that has you going NOW KISS. And it's a slow burn, so it is frustrating in the best of ways, especially as there are so many little thing that help drive the passion. They're messy with it too, especially when they don't trust each other at the start.

This is a couple that you don't just want to be together, you need them to be together.

This romance almost felt gothic. I love the setting, Thornhallow Hall has such atmosphere, and I loved how other things like the weather and the characters actions built upon it. The sprawling Jacobian manner house truly comes to life on the page, and I wish I could explore further. I liked the dark background, the locked doors, the neglected interior. I love things being brought back to life and how it was all driven by Rebecca.

I wish I could read this again for the first time in the autumn, it would be perfect for reading with a hot chocolate while it's raining outside.

I will not be bullied, threatened or blackmailed into relinquishing any part of myself I do not wish to give freely.

The Housekeeper of Thornhallow Hall blog tour banner

Lotte James trained as an actor and theatre director, but spent most of her life working day jobs crunching numbers whilst dreaming up stories of love and adventure. She’s thrilled to finally be writing those stories, and when she’s not scribbling on tiny pieces of paper, she can usually be found wandering the countryside for inspiration, or nestling with coffee and a book.


15 July 2021

Book Review: The Corfe Castle Murders by Rachel McLean *AD gifted

I was provided with a free ebook of  The Corfe Castle Murders by Rachel McLean ahead of the blog tour.

It has been a fair while since I read a thrilling police procedural, and I don't know why because I freaking love them. This was the reminder I needed to read more non-romance books and The Corfe Castle Murders is the start of a series I will definitely be continuing. DCI Lesley Clarke is one heck of a detective.

I'm excited to be helping to kick off the blog tour for this marvellous book.

The Corfe Castle Murders by Rachel McLean DCI Lesley Clarke book cover

Meet DCI Lesley Clarke. She’s a straight-talking city copper who doesn’t suffer fools gladly… and she’s been transferred to rural Dorset.

After being injured in a bomb attack, Lesley is presented with a choice - early retirement, or a period of respite in a calmer location.

But things don’t stay calm for long.

Before she’s even started her new job, Lesley is dragged into investigating a murder at one of England’s most iconic landmarks, the imposing Corfe Castle.

Lesley must hit the ground running. Can she get along with her new partner DS Dennis Frampton, a traditionalist who doesn’t appreciate her style? How will she navigate the politics of a smaller force where she’s a bigger, and less welcome, fish? And most importantly, can she solve the murder before the killer strikes again?

The Corfe Castle Murders is a compelling, character-driven mystery perfect for fans of Ruth Rendell, Colin Dexter, Faith Martin and Joy Ellis.


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Source: Blog Tour | Review Copy


5 Word Review: Murder, family, betrayal, secrets, survival.


I love DCI Lesley Clarke and I'm going to need more book about her, thanks.

When we first meet Lesley it's in a pretty picturesque setting with her daughter - although that quickly changes and shows the temperaments of them both. Being headstrong runs in the family, and I loved that, it came across in the mother-daughter relationship perfectly. The family itself is messy and there's a lot going on with some parallels to the mystery which I thought was wonderfully done, it showed you multiple versions of similar situations.

Lesley is headstrong and confident, and she's fair. She's quick to judge, but she does so based on evidence. She's the kind of person you want on your side. Although she can be a bit of a bitch at times and a tad hypocritical. I loved how we saw her character slowly revealed, and there's even a surprise reveal at the end that I'm excited to see develop in the next book.

Dennis Frampton was so freaking frustrating. He's full of prejudice and judgement and is heavily biased towards his moral and religious beliefs. And he's a massive misogynist to boot. I really did detest him at times. He has the worst kind of work ethic, he's lazy and arrogant and to be honest a total hinderance every step of the way. But maybe he's not all bad? I'm not convinced, but the character development was excellent.

This is the type of mystery that begs for a large glass of red wine, slowly sipped. It's one to puzzle over, with so many clues and red herrings to wade through, it'll really get you thinking and challenge your prejudices.

The pace at the start is pretty fast, and it doesn't relent. There is a lot of domestic drama woven in, many thing to help complicate it, and it ends up with a pretty mind-blowing ending. I never knew who done it until the reveal, and I couldn't even take a guess at 90% in. This is a complicated mystery with lots to mull over.

Corfe Castle is now on my bucket list of places I would like to visit. I loved how the setting came to life, and how the small community was explored.

I absolutely loved The Corfe Castle Murders, so it's a good thing that book two The Clifftop Murders comes out later this month. I definitely need more!

The Corfe Castle Murders by Rachel McLean blog tour banner


My name’s Rachel McLean and I write thrillers that make you think.

What does that mean?

In short, I want my stories to make your pulse race and your brain tick.

Do you often get through a thriller at breakneck pace but are left with little sense of what the book was really about? Do you sometimes read literary fiction but just wish something would damn well happen?

My books aim to fill that gap.

If you’d like to know more about my books and receive extra bonus content, please join my book club. I’ll send you a weekly (sometimes fortnightly) email with news about my writing research and progress, stories and bonus content for each book. And I’ll let you know when my books are on offer.



12 July 2021

Book Review: Uncovering Small Town Secrets by Tyler Anne Snell *AD gifted

Mills & Boon sent me a free e-copy of Uncovering Small Town Secrets by Tyler Anne Snell via NetGalley.

I only recently read my first Mills & Boon Heroes, and I loved it so much that I knew I had to seek out more. I love the themes that seem to run through them, I am a sucker for a loyal hero. I love the determinism of the heroines. Basically, I have a new favourite romance sub-genre.

The Saving Kelby Creek Series is my latest foray into the Heroes books, and Uncovering Small Town Secrets by Tyler Anne Snell is first up.

Uncovering Small Town Secrets by Tyler Anne Snell cover Mills & Boon Heroes

Dodging bullets isn’t the homecoming he expected...

When Detective Foster Lovett's pretty next door neighbour, Millie Dean, begs him to help her find her missing brother, the other deputies warn him not to investigate the case.

But Foster’s gut says something is off, particularly once Millie becomes a target.

Foster will do whatever it takes to keep her safe, but can he solve the most dangerous case of his career?

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Amazon UK | Amazon US

Source: NetGalley | Review Copy 

5 Word Review: Family, danger, secrets, loyalty, justice.


Kelby Creek is a bit of a toxic mess when we start the story. It's the kind of place with a bad past and people who have seemingly given up. Except for Millie.

I loved Millie's determination, although her impulsiveness had me gasping at times. This is a very tense read, as at any moment I felt Millie was just going to go off and put herself in danger. But I wouldn't change it, Uncovering Small Town Secrets had me on the edge of my seat the entire time.

I felt like the tone of the writing really brought the setting to life. From somewhat despondent and hopeless at first, as Millie and Foster's story progressed the tone itself changed. I thought it was very clever, the way the writing itself became more hopeful as the protagonists started to trust each other more and have some hope for what they would find out.

I really liked Foster - I loved his values and his own determination, the way he trusted his gut. I especially loved the way that he never took anything at face value and tried not to let prejudice cloud his judgment.

The relationship between Millie and Foster is intense. I'm not sure I'm fine with the ethics of it, and the power dynamic, but their passion is electric and kind of overtakes all that. The fast plot and tense situations really drive the romance. I loved the building of trust, the realisation that they can depend on each other, the forgiving of past secrets.

This is the first book in the Saving Kelby Creek Series, and I will definitely be reading more! Next up is Searching For Evidence which has just released this month and I have already purchased, and Surviving The Truth which comes out in August. Kelby Creek is a mess and I can't wait to see that rectified.

Luck was the ripple effect of action. Consequences of actions, whether accidental or intentional.

 

09 July 2021

Book Beginnings: The Housekeeper of Thornhallow Hall by Lotte R. James *AD gifted

For Book Beginnings, Rose City Reader invites us to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

For Friday 56, Freda's Voice asks you to turn to Page 56 in your book or 56% on your e-reader and pick a sentence.


The Housekeeper of Thornhallow Hall by Lotte R. James book cover Mills & Boon historical

The rumbling and creaking of the cart, and the bitter grumblings of the old man Rebecca had hired in the village to help her complete the journey, had long since faded.

I requested this book on NetGalley and I'm still waiting, but I'm on the blog tour with Rachel's Random Resources so I have a copy anyway.

And boy, am I excited.

I'm not gonna lie, I have expectations for The Housekeeper of Thornhallow Hall. And the first line really makes me excited - I think this is exactly what I'm looking for. I want bit of Jane Eyre and a dash of Catherine Cookson, paired with a love story. I want drama and angst and passion in a Georgian/Regency/Victorian setting, and I think this will tick every box for me.

The story starts in 1828 in the North of England, and the writing immediately sets the scene, cleverly using the weather to build the atmosphere.

The cover is probably not the strongest, but that's personal taste and I can see what they're going for. Basically Jane Eyre and a dash of Catherine Cookson, with angst and love. So I'd have picked it up regardless of being on the blog tour.

Was the problem simply that he could not walk away? That he could not be rid of her? He should have dismissed her when he'd had the chance. But even then...

This is from 56% in my digital review copy.

HELLO ANGST. YES.

By halfway though there has been A Lot that has happened. Think Rosie Goodwin levels of happenings. The pace is very much driven by the plot and it makes for a read I don't want to put down.

I think that we're about to see a change and that it will be more character driven going forward as the characters fall more into their feelings.

I think that this a book I'll end up reading again and again.

About the Book


She arrived as a housekeeper...

Will she leave a countess?

To some Thornhallow Hall might be tarnished by tales of vengeance and ghosts, but to new housekeeper Rebecca Merrickson it represents independence and peace from her tumultuous past.

Until the estate’s owner William Reid, the disappeared Earl, unexpectedly returns…

After clashing over the changes she’s made to the house, Rebecca slowly unearths the memories that haunt brooding Liam, and her defiance gives way to a shockingly improper attraction to her master!


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What are you reading this week?

08 July 2021

A Month of Mindfulness - Check In 1

It's time for my first check in! Let's have a nosy at how the past week has been for me.

I found the Daily Wellness playlist on Spotify and decided to use it to kickstart a bit of a mindfulness journey for myself. I knew I hadn't been treating myself well mentally. This is my first check in of the month.

A Month of Mindfulness - Check In 1

It's been an interesting week.

I actually managed to listen to at least a little of the playlist every single day, and I'm going to keep that 5 of 7 days listened goal in place.

I did find that the music was a bit repetitive, some of the songs were every single day. And a lot of them were already from my Liked Songs. There was one that I just couldn't stand, it had a background chatter to it which was so distracting and set my teeth on edge. By day four I had set the artist to Do Not Play because I was sick of it, and thankfully there was no more.

As for the podcasts, I didn't like all of them and the adverts were a bit annoying. I especially didn't like the running one, as I don't like running at all. As the week went on I ended up disliking it more and more, I hate the huffing and puffing while they're talking as they run and I'm just not interested. There were some handy every day tips from them though so I won't be skipping.

I did enjoy The Doctors Kitchen, they were generally informative and interesting, although the constant plugging of the book had me rolling my eyes.

The Daily Pep was consistently good, I loved the attitude and the directness, out of all of them it was the one that made me thing the most and had the most benefit.

The productions value is pretty high, I liked the little stops from Spotify like here is some music, enjoy or time for a podcast episode. It was cute and added extra structure. I wasn't so keen on the fact that every mini podcast episode, many of which seem especially put together for this playlist, had adverts though. There were five minutes long but 20% of that was an advert.

How I Feel


I feel less overwhelmed. I wouldn't say I feel 100%, I'm maybe up to about 60% if all's said and done. But it's only been a week. I am proud of what I've achieved in just a week.

I think that feeling better is a sum of all of the parts. I've been taking time for mindfulness, and I've been getting more sleep, and I've been moving more.

Getting out into nature and going for that walk felt so amazing. We barely saw another person, stopped to take in gorgeous views, pushed ourselves hard. I can't wait to go for a walk this weekend! And during the week I'm going to try and get out more, even if it's just to the park. 

Cragside

Goals for the Week


I think I did really well with my three goals from last week, so I'm going to keep my previous goals and add one on.

I did slip a little with the sleep, but I tried to make sure I had nine hours of sleep opportunity, and even though I didn't manage to sleep more (anyone else having trouble sleeping?) I do feel a bit more rested.

The walk was exactly what I needed. It was only a little over three miles, but it was a challenging walk that started with a 730 foot ascent at Cragside. I love Cragisde, it's a gorgeous place steeped in history and beauty. We went expecting rain but it was sunny the entire time. I definitely recommend doing the Gun Walk at Cragside in a clockwise direction so you start with a tough climb, as some areas were pretty steep and easier to go up rather than down. The views were spectacular.

I found a lovely sounding stretching routine, Fitness Blender's Free 3-Day Flexibility Challenge, so I'm going to add that on to my goals and aim to do one of the videos at least four times a week. It seems to focus more on your awareness of your body and staying calm, with lots of deep breathing. And it's pretty slow, which is perfect. I really do need more flexibility, over a year of barely leaving the house has done a bit of a number on me!

  • Listen to the Daily Wellness playlist at least five days a week
  • Aim for eight hours of sleep a night
  • Go for a long walk at least once
  • Do a flexibility flow at least four days a week

Keeping Track


Days Listened: 7
Favourite Song: Stay - Gracie Abrams
Favourite Podcast Episode: The Doctor's Kitchen - Arthritis and Food
Nights with Eight Hours: 4
Longest Walk: 3.15 miles



How do you practice mindfulness?


07 July 2021

Audiobook Review: Rome is Where the Heart is by Tilly Tennant *AD gifted

I was provided with a free audio-copy of Rome is Where The Heart Is by Tilly Tennant via NetGalley.

It has been years since I read a Tilly Tennant and I honestly don't know why. This book was a bit like a balm for the soul, a perfect summer romance to warm your heart and put a massive smile on your face.

Rome is Where The Heart Is by Tilly Tennant book cover

Can a holiday romance ever have a happy ending? Escape with Kate to the sun-drenched city of Rome where a love affair is just about to begin…

When Kate’s husband Matt dumps her on Friday 13th she decides enough is enough – it’s time for her to have some fun and so she hops on a plane to Rome. A week of grappa and gelato in pavement cafes under azure blue skies will be just what the doctor ordered.

What she doesn’t count on is meeting and falling for sexy policeman Alessandro. But the course of true love doesn’t run smoothly – Alessandro has five meddling sisters, a fearsome mama and a beautiful ex Orazia. They’re all certain that Kate is not the girl for him.

Can Kate and Alessandro’s love last the distance? Or will she return home with the one souvenir she doesn’t want – a broken heart …

Fall in love with the colourful cafes and the cobbled piazzas of Rome and follow Kate’s dreams and her heart in this enchanting escapist read. Perfect for fans of Debbie Johnson and Carol Matthews.

Amazon UK | Amazon US

Source: NetGalley | Review Copy

5 Word Review: Family, love, trust, loyalty, Rome.


Take me to Rome, please.

This was a wonderfully summery romance, perfect for cheering you up. I listened to the audiobook and thought it was excellent, and I'd happily read the book again.

Melanie Crawley does an outstanding job narrating the story. Her voice is rich and warm and emotional, and her intonation was perfect. I honestly could think of a better narrator to lend their voice to Kate, and I will definitely be checking out more of the books they have narrated. Like book two, A Wedding in Italy.

Kate's unlucky number is very much 13. Or is it? I felt like Matt leaving her was actually a great thing for her, as she could stop being stifled by him and explore her dreams, and when she brings him down a peg or two towards the end it was excellent - we love to see such character development!

This book had me seriously hungry with all of the gorgeous food mentioned. It's definitely one to read with a bowl of olives and a glass of wine. It felt a bit like an old romance film, where the heroine dashes around doing the touristy stuff and falls in love with a local. I mean, yes, it's cliché. But it's a cliché for a reason and it's so much fun. I had a massive smile on my face most of the time when I was reading this.

I like that this book also explored familial relationships, they can be messy and Rome is Where the Heart is did not shy away from that. I loved the relationships between the sisters, their fierce love for each other and their protective streaks.

This was a beautiful read for summer, when you have to placate your wanderlust, or just need something to fill your heart with love. It was perfect.