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30 July 2021

Book Beginnings: In The Ravenous Dark by A. M. Strickland

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.

In The Ravenous Dark by A. M. Strickland book cover Illumicrate

There wasn't much warning the day they came for Rovan's father.

I got this book in an Illumicrate box earlier this year, and while I was in the mood for something dark I decided to pick it up. And isn't it pretty?

The cover is stunning. I love the colours and the details, the way the flowers create an abstract skull behind the character design. My copy also has really pretty floral sprayed edges.

I like this first line. There's something about the tone, the succinctness of it. It doesn't give much away but immediately prompts questions. Who are they? Why are they coming for Rovan's father?

I found it so easy to pick this book up and almost impossible to put it down - this is an excellent start to an excellent story.

After a second, the dead man sighs and answers me. "Only those who resist. I don't advise making a habit of it."

This is from page 56 in my hardback copy.

I am much further through than this! I'm over 300 pages through and picking up that line for this post has me like woah. So much has happened, is it even the same story?

This line comes in a pretty intense scene, a lot has happened in a small amount of time and Rovan has a lot of adjusting to do - and quickly.

I don't want to put this down, and I know by the end I'll want more.

About the Book

A pansexual bloodmage reluctantly teams up with an undead spirit to start a rebellion among the living and the dead, in this dark YA fantasy by A.M. Strickland, author of Beyond the Black Door, whom Richard Kadrey calls "a storyteller of both grace and power."

In Thanopolis, those gifted with magic are assigned undead spirits to guard them--and control them. Ever since Rovan's father died trying to keep her from this fate, she's hidden her magic. But when she accidentally reveals her powers, she's bound to a spirit and thrust into a world of palace intrigue and deception.

Desperate to escape, Rovan finds herself falling for two people she can't fully trust: Lydea, a beguiling, rebellious princess; and Ivrilos, the handsome spirit with the ability to control Rovan, body and soul.

Together, they uncover a secret that will destroy Thanopolis. To save them all, Rovan will have to start a rebellion in both the mortal world and the underworld, and find a way to trust the princess and spirit battling for her heart--if she doesn't betray them first.

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What are you reading this week?

29 July 2021

Book Review: Playing the Duke's Fiancée by Amanda McCabe *AD gifted

I was provided with a free ebook of Playing the Duke's Fiancée by Amanda McCabe ahead of the blog tour.

You can't beat a good Victorian romance, especially one set at court. And this one? It was a resplendent portrayal of court life and romance.

Playing the Duke's Fiancee by Amanda McCabe Mills & Boon historical cover

A pretend proposal

For the unconventional heiress

When American heiress Violet Wilkins crosses paths with William, Duke of Charteris, she has extremely low expectations of the “Duke of Bore.” But when this seemingly stuffy aristocrat offers her escape from a dreadful arranged marriage, she leaps at the chance!

To her surprise, the arresting Charles whisks Vi into an exhilarating make-believe romance.

And as she gets to know the man behind the title, she can’t help wanting more…

Amazon UK | Amazon US

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Source: Blog Tour | Review Copy

5 Word Review: Photography, royalty, family, friendship, duty.

I don't usually read historical romances about American heiresses. It's not that I don't like them, it's just that generally they're not to my tastes and I find it hard to relate to the protagonist. But Playing the Duke's Fiancée? I couldn't have loved it more! And I will definitely be reading the other Dollar Duchesses books because Amanda McCabe's writing certainly does tick all of the right boxes for me.

I may be converted.

I loved Violet so much - I loved her passion and her enthusiasm for everything, and especially her love of photography. It reminded me of my time doing photography myself, battling against tricky light or subjects who wouldn't stay still. I loved her artistic mind, and how open minded she was to interpreting the art of others. It really grounded her as a character.

William is a very interesting character, and I loved that we see him not only as The Duke, but also as a brother and a friend. It was nice to see him mellow with love. And I really loved the responsibility he had for his tenants too, his progressive views on making their lives better.

The narrative is split between Violet and William, so we get glimpses from both sides. I loved the way that this built tension and had me fully supporting the couple.

I loved the relationship between Vi and Will. The way they first became friends despite their secret attraction to each other. They are both supportive of the other, and always encouraging. It was so heart-warming and when they became something more it was all the more satisfying for it. They genuinely feel like best friends got together.

Something I especially loved about this book of the excessive luxury of court, especially was we travelled into Russia, the extravagance and the lavish surroundings. This is really a book that allows you to get lost in a bygone era of drawing rooms and grand tours. It really went oh you think this is opulent? Well check out this. I could spend hours daydreaming about it all.

This is a really opulent and elegant Victorian romance, one that was easy to get swept away by. I'd recommend it to anyone.

Playing the Duke's Fiancée by Amanda McCabe blog tour banner

Amanda wrote her first romance at the age of sixteen--a vast historical epic starring all her friends as the characters, written secretly during algebra class (and her parents wondered why math was not her strongest subject...)

She's never since used algebra, but her books have been nominated for many awards, including the RITA Award, the Romantic Times BOOKReviews Reviewers' Choice Award, the Booksellers Best, the National Readers Choice Award, and the Holt Medallion.  She lives in Santa Fe with a Poodle, a cat, a wonderful husband, and a very and far too many books and royal memorabilia collections. 

When not writing or reading, she loves taking dance classes, collecting cheesy travel souvenirs, and watching the Food Network--even though she doesn't cook.

Amanda also writes as Laurel McKee for Grand Central Publishing, the Elizabethan Mystery Series as Amanda Carmack, and the Manor Cat Mystery Series as Eliza Casey.

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 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.


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. 


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.

05 July 2021

Book Review: Hooverville by Kayla Joy *AD gifted

I was provided with a free ebook of Hooverville by Kayla Joy ahead of the blog tour.

Oh no, I was seduced by a pretty book cover! Thankfully the contents lived up the gorgeous artwork, Hooverville was excellent.

Hooverville by Kayla Joy book cover

Annaleise Winston can never seem to fit in with the Society Girls, the strict rules that govern them, or their selfish indulgence during the Great Depression. Behind closed doors, her publicly perfect new fiance, Frank Alexander, is violent and dismissive, but without his financial security, Annaleise and her mother will be on the streets with not a penny to their name.

When Annaleise finally has enough, she runs away and accidentally becomes stranded in a Hooverville, a lawless homeless encampment in Central Park, where she must keep her identity a secret if she wants to stay alive. But a kind shoe shiner named Thomas Kelley may get in the way of everything she thought she ever wanted. As their love for each other grows, the Great Depression worsens, and Frank will pay any price to bring back his bride.

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Source: Blog Tour | Review Copy

5 Word Review: Family, survival, hope, secrets, love.

Oh no, I was seduced by a pretty book cover! Thankfully the contents lived up the gorgeous artwork, Hooverville was excellent.

I was surprised by the first person narrative - somehow it's not something I come across often in books. It meant it did take a bit of getting used to, but I think in the end it had me deeper in the story, and I cared more about Annaleise for it.

My heart broke reading Annaleise's relationship with her mother, her mother's attitude is frankly disgusting and I'm so glad that Annaleise was able to grow past it. She's got a good head on her shoulders and a kind heart, she's a good egg despite her rotten family. And then it gets worse for her. God, I hated Frank so much, everything about him is vile. He was excellently written for me to hate him so viscerally. 

I love that she kept her strength, and that she found it in herself to run. She has a great deal of strength, and she uses it all. I liked that once she ran she was resourceful, it added to the many facets of her character. I liked to see her new relationships grow despite the danger lurking, and one relationship in particular, Thomas is lovely. And Frank was dangerous. The contrast between the two was excellent.

I had never heard of a Hooverville before, nor have I read much fiction set in The Great Depression in America, so this book was a bit of an education. I thought it was fascinating, and pretty telling that if anything the rich/poor divide has gotten bigger, when will we learn the evil of greed?

I loved this book so much. It was tense and hopeful and enlightening. It delved into the darkness in society, but it also highlighted the good in humanity. I would recommend it to absolutely anyone.

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Kayla Joy is an author and artist living in the Pacific Northwest with her family and her many animals. At 20, she has already self published two books: Morbid Tales from Behind the Mirror (available on Amazon now) and Hooverville. You can follow her journey at

03 July 2021

Book Review: The Orchard Girls by Nikola Scott *AD gifted

I was provided with a free ebook of The Orchard Girls by Nikola Scott ahead of the blog tour.

My favourite WW2 stories are those about Land Girls, so The Orchard Girls immediately piqued my interest. I thought I knew what I was in for, but the split-time narrative was amazingly well done and my expectations were more than met.

The Orchard Girls by Nikola Scott book cover

London, 2004.

Frankie didn't always have it easy. Growing up motherless, she was raised by her grandmother, who loved her – and betrayed her. For years, the rift between them seemed irreparable. But when their paths suddenly cross again, Frankie is shocked to realise that her grandmother is slowly losing control of her memory. There is a darkness in her past that won't stay buried – secrets going back to wartime that may have a devastating effect on Frankie's own life.

Somerset, 1940.

When seventeen-year-old Violet's life is ripped apart by the London Blitz, she runs away to join the Women's Land Army, wanting nothing more than to leave her grief behind. But as well as the terror of enemy air raids, the land girls at Winterbourne Orchards face a powerful enemy closer to home. One terrible night, their courage will be put to the test – and the truth of what happened must be kept hidden, forever...

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Source: Blog Tour | Review Copy

5 Word Review: Family, secrets, war, survival, respect.

Trust me, you're not ready for this book. But you should definitely grab some tissues and pick it up.

When I picked up The Orchard Girls on a Friday night, I thought it'd be the perfect evening read. Then I stayed up until the early hours, gasping with disbelief, as I could not put it down.

I loved that the narrative was split across time. The stark differences in their worlds was amazing and the contrast really drove it home about how terrifying the Blitz was.

I definitely preferred reading Violet's perspective. That's not to say that I didn't enjoy Frankie's narration, just that I felt more invested in Violet's. I guess it's because we see so much more her, and through the eyes of her estranged granddaughter. Violet has been through so so much, and kept such secrets. My heart broke for her as her story was revealed. She is so multi-faceted and it is fascinating.

The story is slowly unravelled between the pages, the mysteries enticing you to keep reading. I couldn't wait to find out everything about Violet's life, and to find out how Frankie got on in her own life. Seeing the slow rebuilding of trust between Violet and Frankie was lovely, and a heart-warming edge to a story that could get rather dark at times. 

The writing is beautiful. The world comes alive on the pages, and I could smell the fresh air as much as I could hear the ringing in my ears. I will absolutely read more by Nikola Scott.

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Nikola Scott started out in book publishing and worked as a crime fiction editor in America and England for many years. Turning her back on blood-spattered paperback covers and dead bodies found in woods, she sat down at her kitchen table one day to start her first novel — and hasn’t stopped writing since. Obsessed with history and family stories (‘How exactly did you feel when your parents gave the house to your brother?’) she is well-known – and feared – for digging up dark secrets at dinner parties and turning them into novels.

Her first two books, My Mother's Shadow and Summer of Secrets, have both been international bestsellers and were translated widely around the world. Nikola lives in Frankfurt with her husband and two boys (and a kitchen table).

Once a month, Nikola sends out a popular newsletter about writing, reading, book news, freebies
and loads of therapeutic baking. Join in here if you’d love to be a part of it all:

For more info on Nikola, visit her website at

02 July 2021

Book Review: Reputation by Lex Croucher *AD gifted

I was provided with a free copy of Reputation by Lex Croucher  ahead of the blog tour.

As I said in my Book Beginnings post, Reputation is one of my most anticipated romance reads this year, and I was so freaking thrilled to have a copy in my hands. I am even more thrilled to say that it didn't disappoint, and it lived up to every expectation I had for it.

Reputation by Lex Croucher book cover regency romance

The hilarious debut novel from Lex Croucher. A classic romcom with a Regency-era twist, for fans of Mean Girls, Bridgerton and Jane Austen.

Abandoned by her parents, middle-class Georgiana Ellers has moved to a new town to live with her dreary aunt and uncle. At a particularly dull party, she meets the enigmatic Frances Campbell, a wealthy member of the in-crowd who lives a life Georgiana couldn't have imagined in her wildest dreams.

Lonely and vulnerable, Georgiana falls in with Frances and her unfathomably rich, deeply improper friends. Georgiana is introduced to a new world: drunken debauchery, mysterious young men with strangely arresting hands, and the upper echelons of Regency society.

But the price of entry to high society might just be higher than Georgiana is willing to pay...

It is a truth universally acknowledged... That girls just wanna have fun.

Amazon UK | Amazon US

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Source: Blog Tour | Review Copy

5 Word Review: Reputation, society, friendship, family, love.

I can't wait to read Reputation again. Even the first line is perfect. I want more.

This is the type of book that has you positively fizzing in anticipation. I spent almost every page waiting for scandal upon scandal (and it delivered).

As the main character, we see this world through Georgiana's eyes. She's not a bad person, she just gets in with the wrong crowd and out of her depth. But it is incredible fun. She's coming of age and coming into herself and making mistakes. She's desperate for attention, just a little, and she wants to be accepted. I liked that she loved reading romance herself, and that she'd compare people to characters.

But as much as Georgiana is the main character, I loved Frances. I loved her impulsiveness and impropriety. She's a mess and she's toxic and I was here for it.

Frances felt like the beginning of something - a story Georgiana desperately wanted to follow through to the end.

The story is propelled along by society functions and the odd tête-à-tête in alcoves. For all that Georgiana's life may be boring in the beginning, once she meets Francis and is introduced to the rest of the group it is anything but.

The writing itself was wonderful, so much was cleverly packed in to the pages. I have a five favourite quotes post coming up soon, and let me tell you it was hard to pick just five. The writing is exquisite and fun and engaging. I never wanted to put this book down, I was always compelled to read just another page even if it was 2 AM and I had work the next day.

Get Vitamin String Quartet lined up on Spotify, pour yourself a glass of something nice, and nab yourself a copy of Reputation. It is outstanding and messy and so so fun. You will not be disappointed. It's like Mean Girls and Harlots and Skins and Bridgerton mushed up together in an alternate universe with trailing gowns and not enough candles.
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01 July 2021

A Month of Mindfulness

This is something a bit different for me to be sharing, but why not? Maybe I can help someone else as well as myself.

A Month of Mindfulness

I have recently realised that I have been ignoring my mental wellbeing a fair bit. I've not been allowing myself to switch off, to sleep properly, to sit and breath, to think things through. I've been meaning to change it, but despite my good intentions life got in the way a lot.

I found the Daily Wellness playlist on Spotify and you know what? It's going to be the kick-start I need. I plan on trying to listen to the playlist daily, or at least Monday to Friday, and checking in on here once a week to update you on how it's going. The playlist itself is a mix of podcast episodes and music, and is a little under two hours long. I've listened to one to get an idea of what it was about, and it does seem like a bit of a mixed bag.

Wish me luck on my month of mindfulness.

How I Feel

Right now I feel a little bit overwhelmed. I feel like I'm on the verge of panic pretty much constantly, I'm tossing and turning rather than sleeping, and when I do sleep I'm plagued by nightmares. I am slipping back in to bad behaviours and bad coping mechanisms.

But I know how to fix it.

I've been this way before, I worked through it with therapy. I know that for me, mindfulness is key. I feel like my life has been too busy to take time for me, so I'm going to dedicate some time in the morning especially. Because I really don't want to get dragged down any further into my anxiety.

I think I also need to have a good cry and let it all out, I'm terrible at bottling up my emotions. I'm going to have to watch Bambi, aren't I?

Goals for the Week

To help me keep track I am setting out a few goals. I hope that these will be easy to achieve, although my physical health will have a fair bit of impact on them, so I'm not going to get down about not hitting them all. For my first week I am keeping it to three goals, and I'll maybe add one a week to work towards my wellbeing as the month goes on.

  • 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

Keeping Track

I'm going to check back in every Thursday in July with a quick update of how I'm getting on, whether I've met my goals, and any extra goals I want to add. I'll probably make a few notes about favourite songs and podcast episodes too, and anything I've found particularly helpful.

I'll physically be keeping track in my bullet journal, probably with a monthly habit tracker so I can see at a glance how I'm doing.

How do you practice mindfulness?

Book Review: The Marquess Next Door by Virginia Heath *AD gifted

I was provided with a free ebook of The Marquess Next Door by Virginia Heath ahead of the blog tour.

I love a Regency Romance, so I requested this one straight away. And I was not disappointed. The Marquess Next Door is excellent, truly superb.

The Marquess Next Door by Virginia Heath book cover Mills & Boon historical

A dashing new neighbour…

Temptation on her doorstep!

To avoid an unwanted suitor at a ball, Hope Brookes asks another gentleman to rescue her.

He obliges – with a surprisingly passionate kiss! Revealed as her sinfully handsome new neighbour, Lucius, Marquess of Thundersley, they forge a friendship over their balconies.

It’s refreshing that Lucius is more interested in her writer dreams than her looks, so why can’t she stop thinking about that kiss?

Amazon UK | Amazon US

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Source: Blog Tour | Review Copy

5 Word Review: Reputation, friendship, society, notoriety, love.

Excuse me, I need more?

Hope is basically my favourite type of protagonist. She had me about howling at the beginning when she was chewing out Lord Harlington.

Lucius arrives in a bit of a state - to be frank he's a mess. He's a bit of a Hot Cross Bun, my favourite type of historical love interest. But he can keep his emotions generally in check, and he has a wicked wit.

I loved the relationship between Hope and Luke. The way they met had me giddy with excitement - I couldn't wait for all to be revealed and it was exactly as marvellous as I anticipated.. They have such a wonderful friendship and it was a lovely foundation for their more romantic relationship to grow. I love a friends-to-lovers trope and The Marquess Next Door does it excellently. I loved the quips between them, and they way they just got each other at times.

That they're both running from someone made it even better.

I liked the juxtaposition of their lives, what Hope is used to, and what Luke has been thrust into. I thought it was a very clever way to show the breadth of society, and how it wasn't only the super-rich who were part of the Ton.

Something I really really enjoyed was how fashion was used to show Lucius's societal constraints. It turned the usual woman-oppressed-by-fashion turned on its head, and it was great seeing it reflected in Luke's thoughts on his own apparel.

The Marquess Next Door is perfect for fans of Bridgerton, and particularly if you love the dry snark of Lady Whistledown. The snippets of Whispers from Behind the Fan were excellent. I can't wait to read the rest of Virginia Heath's books.
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When Virginia Heath was a little girl it took her ages to fall asleep, so she made up stories in her head to help pass the time while she was staring at the ceiling. As she got older, the stories became more complicated, sometimes taking weeks to get to the happy ending. Then one day, she decided to embrace the insomnia and start writing them down. Despite that, it still takes her forever to fall asleep.

Giveaway to Win 2 x e-copies of The Marquess Next Door
(Open INT)

*Terms and Conditions – Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.