Welcome to my reading month! And what a merry March it’s been for books.
I have to confess I’ve struggled to read much over recent years. Whenever I sit down with a book I immediately get a stab of guilt, thinking I should be writing. It’s crazy, I know, but it’s hard to shake the feeling. Unless I’m reading a book about writing, or marketing, or for research, I just feel I should be spending my time working instead. Funny how I never get that guilty feeling when I’m wasting time watching television…
Anyway, for some reason, this month something shifted. I made a conscious decision, a couple of months ago, to try my best to read a book a week. Not much to ask from someone who used to read a book a day, right? Ah, the good old days… Anyway, I don’t know what happened exactly, but this time I managed to read eight books. Yes, eight!
I usually post about the books I’ve read in my newsletter, but because there are eight of them I thought I’d better write a blog post instead and put a link to it in the newsletter. Otherwise the newsletter will be even longer than usual and I wouldn’t want that. So here goes.
The Chosen Ones.
As you can see, there’s quite a mixture there. I started the month with a novella by K.T. Dady. I’d recently read the first in her bestselling Pepper Bay series, but Honeydale is a spin-off from that, and the first is called Honeydale Lodge.
The Honeydale novellas are standalone stories that intertwine with recurring characters.
Honeydale Lodge: Blake Hart has a fairy-tale holiday park to open, but his ex-girlfriend turns up wanting his help. After the way she dumped him years ago, there is no way he wants to be the fake fiancé she needs to swindle her poor old aunt. Is that really the woman he fell in love with back in university?
Had Zoey known her wicked old aunt would want proof, she would never have used Blake as her pretend hubby-to-be.
It’s a long way to his home in Scotland, but if she wants to fulfil her mother’s dying wish, she has to find him.
This was a novella and it was short but sweet. Blake’s lacking in confidence and keeps putting off opening the park. When his ex turns up he’s completely thrown, especially when she reveals why she’s here. There’s a fairy-tale theme with the enchanting holiday homes, and a wicked aunt rather than a wicked stepmother. I really took to the Hart family, and can see the potential for the other books in the series which, by the way, are already available to pre-order. If you’re looking for a light, easy read, with a charming setting and likeable characters, this is the book for you.
Next up was something completely different…
The Moving Finger
A malicious letter. A tragic death. A village filled with suspects.
Nothing ever happens in the sleepy village of Lymstock.
Until letters accusing the villagers of unspeakable acts start to appear.
They try to dismiss them as a cruel hoax, but then one of the recipients is found dead. The letter next to her body reads simply, ‘I can’t go on’.
As fear spreads among the villagers, Jane Marple must uncover who is writing these letters – before anyone else is hurt.
Never underestimate Miss Marple
Most people know I’m a huge fan of Agatha Christie’s books, and for the last couple of years I’ve taken part in the Read Christie 2023 challenge, where you’re given a checklist of Agatha’s books to read throughout the year, usually based on a theme of some sort. The book for March this year was The Moving Finger.
I know I must have read this years ago, because I had the entire Miss Marple collection in paperback and read every single one of them, but I couldn’t remember much about it. I did, however, remember watching the television adaptation starring Geraldine McEwan as Jane Marple.
The book is so much better. The older I get the more I appreciate Agatha Christie’s voice. Her humour comes through beautifully, and she’s very observant about people and the way they behave. Miss Marple actually doesn’t appear in this book for ages – in fact, I’d forgotten she was in it at all, assuming she’d just been plonked into the television adaptation the way she was in The Pale Horse, or Endless Night, for example. It doesn’t detract from the story though. It actually turned out to be one of my favourite Christie reads, even though it was never a favourite episode in the Marple series.
Goes Without Saying
“Most people run away from home when they’re in their rebellious teenage phase. But not you, Tom. You waited until you were a forty-year old father to do it.”
Tom Field promised his wife Megan he’d never leave her. So when she finds his note saying he’s gone away, she can’t help but wonder if that’s the only vow he’s broken.
Following him and his treasured camper van to the beautiful coast of North Devon, she has plenty of time to reflect on what’s gone wrong between them. Time to decide whether their marriage is worth saving.
But all too soon reality threatens to catch up with them. Can Tom make things right before it’s too late?
This was different again, and honestly I can’t recommend it highly enough. I spotted it on offer when the author, Luisa A Jones, posted about it on Twitter. Luisa caught my eye because she’s recently signed with Storm Publishing, so we’re stablemates, so to speak. I liked the cover and the blurb appealed, so I bought it, and I absolutely loved it.
Tom Field is having a midlife crisis, and feels his only chance is to get away from it all by the sea. He and Megan have two children and one on the way, so to say it’s bad timing is an understatement.
What I loved about this book, apart from the delicious humour, was the realistic portrayal of the couple. Megan isn’t all good by any means, and Tom certainly isn’t a bad person. Both have flaws, both are lovely, both are struggling with life in different ways. What brought them to this crisis point? And what will happen if Megan finds her husband? Read the book and find out!
Making the Best of It
Tom Field is at breaking point.
He’s been making the best of things, letting his responsibilities get in the way of his dreams. But now, grief-stricken after a tragedy, he knows he can’t keep putting his life on hold. Escaping the city and his unfulfilling job to live near the sea could give him everything he longs for… or it could destroy his marriage and cost him his family.
Before disaster struck, Megan didn’t think she needed her father in her life. Now she’s desperate to find him before it’s too late to get answers to the questions she’s always longed to ask. But her quest re-opens old wounds and leaves her mother and sister feeling betrayed. What’s more, Tom’s pipe dream of abandoning the city she loves threatens to turn her world upside down.
How can Megan and Tom create the perfect life together, when their dreams risk tearing their family apart?
Well, what can I say? Having discovered Tom and Megan Field I wasn’t ready to let them go, so I went on to read the sequel, which I enjoyed just as much as the first book. Tom’s settled back into family life after his blip a couple of years ago, but his dissatisfaction with his career and his longing for a different sort of life has only increased. His depression is only made worse by a personal tragedy that sends him reeling.
Megan, meanwhile, is on a quest to find the father she never knew, but that’s putting her at odds with her own family. And when Tom makes a stunning announcement she’s not only shocked, but fearful that this is something the two of them won’t be able to compromise on.
It’s a really lovely story, full of depth and humour, about two people who seem to want different things, even though they love each deeply. How do you find your way through a predicament like this? Is it possible to stay together when your needs and wants have changed so drastically? You know what I’m going to say, right? Read the book and find out!
Detective Chief Inspector Ryan retreats to Holy Island seeking sanctuary when he is forced to take sabbatical leave from his duties as a homicide detective. A few days before Christmas, his peace is shattered and he is thrust back into the murky world of murder when a young woman is found dead amongst the ancient ruins of the nearby Priory.
When former local girl Dr Anna Taylor arrives back on the island as a police consultant, old memories swim to the surface making her confront her difficult past. She and Ryan struggle to work together to hunt a killer who hides in plain sight, while pagan ritual and small-town politics muddy the waters of their investigation.
Murder and mystery are peppered with a sprinkling of romance and humour in this fast-paced crime whodunnit set on the spectacular Northumbrian island of Lindisfarne, cut off from the English mainland by a tidal causeway.
After reading two funny, warm, and light books, I decided to travel to the dark side. I’d seen LJ Ross on Robson Green’s Weekend Escapes, and I thought her books sounded intriguing. I did once take a trip to Holy Island myself – not a particularly successful one as it goes. You can read more about that in this post if you’re interested!
Anyway, that didn’t put me off, because I’ve always promised myself I’d go back there one day, so when I saw the cover and title of this first in the DCI Ryan series, I knew it was the place to start with Louise’s books.
Now, I’m not really a big crime reader, says the woman who’s obsessed with Agatha Christie. But Agatha Christie’s books aren’t contemporary (now anyway!) gritty, dark, police procedurals. I suppose I love the amateur detective if I’m honest. The only other two writers who have lured me away from cosy crime are Phil Rickman and Helen Phifer, so it was a big deal to pick this one up.
So what did I think of it? I loved it!
There’s a brilliant sense of place in this book. You can really imagine yourself on Lindisfarne, walking the streets, drinking in the pub, standing on the beach, visiting the ruins…
Well, maybe I’ll stay away from the ruins. And the beach. And the pub come to that… Anyway, the point is, the setting is beautifully described. I also liked the character of DCI Ryan. He’s renting a cottage on the island because he’s currently on leave, having been through a pretty traumatic experience. When a body is discovered he’s the only policeman on hand, and is soon back on duty, taking charge of the investigation.
Interestingly, we get to see events not only from Ryan’s point of view, but from the killer’s too, along with several other characters. There’s a hint of The Wicker Man in the book, and it’s all very creepy and atmospheric. However, there’s also a touch of humour and some romance in there, so if you’re a bit of a wimp like me, take heart. It’s not relentless horror, don’t worry.
The Little Bookshop by the Sea
Welcome to the Happy Hartes Bookshop in Micklewick Bay on the North Yorkshire Coast!
The Happy Hartes Bookshop has been a part of bookworm Florrie Appleton’s life as far back as she can remember. From the evocative smell of the books, to working alongside her beloved Mr H and his black Labrador, Gerty, there’s no wonder she calls it her happy place.
Living in a town she loves, with her family and group of close-knit friends around her, life is sweet. Until one dreadful Monday morning, when everything is turned upside down and things are changed forever.
Devastated, Florrie finds herself thrown into an unexpected situation with handsome stranger, Ed Harte, owner of a pair of twinkly navy-blue eyes and a smile that has the knack of making mischief with her insides.
Despite herself, Florrie quickly finds herself falling for him, but she’s torn, reluctant to give her heart to someone who seems intent on not sticking around.
While her heart’s doing battle with her head, Florrie soon finds herself privy to a secret with Ed involving a heart-wrenching twist they could never have imagined.
Will love find a way to bring them together, or are they destined to go their separate ways?
I’ll openly admit that Eliza J Scott is a friend of mine, but that doesn’t alter the fact that she writes cracking books. Having read some of her Life on the Moors novels, I decided to try the first in her new Micklewick Bay series. This one is the first, and if it’s any indication it’s going to be a brilliant series!
Florrie is such a lovely character. Hardworking, unassuming, kind and thoughtful. No wonder she’s surrounded by people who love her. Her family is warm and loving. She has a group of friends who, though very different from each other, are united in their fondness for her. And then there’s Mr Harte, who owns The Happy Hartes Bookshop where Florrie works, and looks upon her as the granddaughter he never had.
He does, however, have a grandson, Ed. When he arrives in Micklewick Bay Florrie’s instantly smitten by those twinkly eyes and warm smile. But she and Ed are soon facing the unthinkable, and with Ed being pulled in two directions, Florrie isn’t certain what her own future will hold, let alone that of her beloved bookshop.
You’ll love the main characters in this book, including Florrie’s four friends, each of whom will get their own novel in the future. I’m looking foward to reading them all, especially as the setting of Micklewick Bay is so beautiful and well-drawn. As someone who’s spent my life visiting the Yorkshire coast, I recognised elements of different places – not least Saltburn, with its funicular and pier. I can’t wait for summer and the next installment!
The Hedge Witch
An enchanting new novella set in the magical world of Sunday Times bestseller Threadneedle.
Rowan is visiting her aunt – Winne the hedge witch – in the Welsh countryside, to get back to nature and hone her skills, as well as taking a break from her annoying sisters and enjoying some peace and quiet. However, Rowan soon comes to realise that hedges are a serious business and this isn’t quite the opportunity to rest and escape she thought it might be.
Not only that, but mysterious events around the town are causing panic in the secret magical community and cowans – non-magical folk – are starting to take notice.
Can Rowan hone her hedge craft, try to make some friends and solve the riddle of the mysterious goings-on, or is magic about to be revealed to the world … or at least Wales?
You might remember me going on about Threadneedle – a book I read last year and immediately loved. You can read a bit about it here. This is a spin-off novella, which I’d say is also a prequel. It features one of the characters from Threadneedle – a young girl called Rowan.
It’s a gentler story than Threadneedle, with more humour. I loved the rural setting, and the relationship between the teenage witch longing for her first kiss, and her older aunt, who has so much to teach her if Rowan will let her. There’s also a bit of mystery in the book. It’s not very long, but it’s a great introduction to The Language of Magic series. (Although that seems to have been rebranded as the Threadneedle series now).
The Cornish Wedding Murder
Still spinning from the hustle and bustle of city life, Jodie ‘Nosey’ Parker is glad to be back in the Cornish village she calls home. Having quit the Met Police in search of something less dangerous, the change of pace means she can finally start her dream catering company and raise her daughter, Daisy, somewhere safer.
But there’s nothing quite like having your first job back at home be catering an ex-boyfriend’s wedding to remind you of just how small your village is. And when the bride vanishes, Jodie is drawn into the investigation, realising that life in the countryside might not be as quaint as she remembers.
With a missing bride on their hands, murder and mayhem lurks around every corner…
But surely saving the day will be a piece of cake for this not-so-amateur sleuth?
This was the first book by Fiona Leitch I’d read, and it was apparently previously published as Murder on the Menu. It’s the first in the Nosey Parker series, featuring ex policewoman Jodie Parker, who has moved back to Cornwall after leaving the police force behind. She’s now running a catering business, and is asked – with frighteningly short notice – to cater for her ex-boyfriend’s wedding. She takes along daughter Daisy and her mum as staff, never expecting that her very first catering job will involve murder and a missing bride!
There’s a lot of humour in this book and it has a light, fast pace. There’s a cute Pomeranian dog called Germaine, and a detective, unfortunately called DCI Withers, who Jodie is obviously attracted to. She refuses to admit the possibility, though, especially when she fleetingly considers how she’d feel about being called Jodie Withers. And of course, it’s set in Cornwall, which is always a bonus! We do get to visit a few beautiful Cornish locations, and there’s lots of talk about pasties and other delicious treats. There’s quite a bit about sausages too, but let’s not dwell on that!
With a large and colourful cast and such a gorgeous setting, as well as a bit of romance and a gentle mystery, it’s a great start to a series.
So that’s my round-up of my March reads. It’s been a real pleasure to rediscover the joy of reading for the fun of it. I’m determined not to lose sight of that again. My Kindle is charging even as I write! What have you been reading? I’d love to hear your recommendations.
Have a great week.