New Release Book Review: Matilda’s Wish by Beth Prentice

This was a delightful read, I always enjoy a novel by Beth Prentice and this one was full of such wonderful characters, humour, romance and a mystery, that I was sad to part with the characters at the end.

Down on her luck, Tilly inherits half of a farm and a farmhouse, while not exactly what she was expecting, she is determined to make a go of it and meet the challenges she is faced with head-on.

The other half of the farm is owned by the McKenzie men. Noah, the gorgeous man that he was, is always there to help Tilly out. There were some fabulous moments between these two and plenty to keep a smile on my face.

Noah’s granddad Wally was a right character and forever getting himself into trouble and when Tilly and Wally got together, watch out, there’s plenty of fun times.

I enjoyed seeing Noah’s dad slowly come out from under his grief after each interaction with Matilda, she certainly brought out the best in him. Cooking really was the way to his heart and happy memories. Mind you, Tilly’s cupcakes were happily devoured by all the men and they were more than happy to take them as payment for any help they gave her. I personally am glad Tilly does live near me, I’d be on a diet every other week if she did.

Apart from the delightful characters, there are of course the less delightful, and in such a small town, it seems everybody has an agenda.

Somebody wants Tilly out and there are plenty of potential suspects for all the bad things that are thrown at Tilly. It was interesting uncovering the truth that had been hidden for many years.

The animals in this story play just as much of a role as the people and provided plenty of laughs, especially one scene with Goatie and her attorney. And Clifford the dog turns out to be a real hero.

I really hope I get to catch up with Till, Noah, Wally and….. Again soon.

AWW 2021

New Release Book Review: How to Mend a Broken Heart by Rachael Johns

How to Mend a Broken HeartI loved this novel, I was a little bit wary about whether I would feel I’d missed anything by not having read The Art of Keeping Secrets, but Rachael put enough information into the story that I didn’t feel I was missing anything, I would like to read it at some point though, it’s been on my shelf since it was published back in 2016.

New Orleans is one of the few places in America that I am interested in visiting and it was great to be able to experience it with Flick and Zoe. I wish someone would offer me the opportunity to work someplace wonderful for a few months like Flick is able to do. I found learning a bit about taxidermy quite interesting, I have a friend who practices the art of taxidermy, and while it’s definitely not my thing, it is very interesting.

I completely understood Flick’s need to take off from her life, while everyone around her was moving on, even her ex-husband, she felt stuck and lost. Flick’s ex-husband, now a transgender female, Sofia, would have been a hard person to continue being close with after all they had been through, but I could see how hard it was for Flick to admit that even to herself.

I really enjoyed seeing Flick come alive again and find herself. It certainly helped that she met Theo, the owner of the jazz bar next door. As well as helping her to learn to have fun, their blossoming relationship also forced her to really take stock of her feelings and her hangups and determine what was important in her life. Theo was gorgeous (I want to meet my own Theo), he had a secret that caused a big issue, I got a bit nervous at one stage that things weren’t going to work out the way I wanted them to (I nearly scrolled to the end to make sure lol).

Zoe suffers heartbreak from her ass***e husband and follows her mother to New Orleans. I have to admit to not liking Zoe much to start with, I completely understood her heartbreak and the grief she was going through, but she treated Flick awfully in the first week of being there, I thought her spoiled and self-indulgent. She did grow on me though, especially after she met Mrs Harranibar(Miss H). After literally knocking her over.

Miss H’s story is a sad one and in the end, being knocked down by Zoe changes her life completely.

I really liked ghost hunter Jack who bumps into Zoe when she first arrives in New Orleans. He was a lovely warm character and I liked how much of a gentleman he was. I hoped Zoe would wake up to herself, and though her marriage had just ended, who is to say when is too soon to meet another person.

New Orleans itself is a big character in this novel and it is definitely high on my travel list when we are able to travel freely and safely again, in the meantime, I’ll continue to travel vicariously through the wonderful characters in novels.

A wonderful heart filled read.

Thanks to NetGalley and Harlequin Australia for a digital copy in return for an honest review.

AWW 2021

New Release Book Review: The Polly Principle by Davina Stone

The Polly PrincipleIn the second book in this series by Davina Stone, we get to meet Polly properly and learn all her quirks and hangups about life and love. Love it seems is only for other people, not for her, definitely not for her, of this, she makes it abundantly clear.

When Polly meets Solo at a wedding, a quick one night is all she is wanting, but things don’t go to plan and Polly’s world begins to be turned upside down, forcing her to feel things she doesn’t want to feel, and Polly is awfully good at denial.

I really liked Solo, and I actually felt very sorry for him when it came to his relationship, or lack thereof with Polly, due to her hangups about love, she really treats him quite badly and I don’t know that I’d have stuck around the way he did if someone blew that hot and cold with me. Obviously, he saw deep inside just what Polly was trying to hide and his feelings towards her were very strong.

Solo comes with his own issues and a past that he too needs to deal with, oh this story is a complicated web of feelings for our main characters.

Polly’s family, especially her father, plays a big part in what has shaped Polly into being who she is and how she is and with her dad’s 70th birthday coming up, we get to find out more about her past.

Polly also has a complicated relationship with her body, and on this, I can completely empathise with her. Polly has beautiful curves, but she doesn’t see them, and constantly wants to change how she looks, while self-sabotaging that at the same time. Oh, Polly, my heart was with you on this one.

This was a novel of self-discovery, for both Polly and Solo, a story of healing for them also, and for Polly’s dad Ted. A really enjoyable novel, I’m looking forward to book 3 where we get to see if Carts, Polly’s friend and Solo’s housemate finds true love.

AWW 2021

New Release Book Review: The Jam Queen’s by Josephine Moon

The jam queensI thoroughly enjoyed Josephine Moon’s previous novel The Cake Maker’s Wish, so I was thrilled to receive a copy of her new novel The Jam Queen’s and this novel did not disappoint. At nearly 400 pages, I read it well into the night two nights running because I just had to know how this group of five women (Dolce being an honourary family member), faired from their trip away together.

With secrets galore, clashing and challenging personalities, traumas, romance and more this made for a fabulous read. Josephine manages to cover several topical issues, IVF, grief, transgender issues, still-birth, US shootings and a few others, but they all fill this story in a very organic way.

The personalities of Great Aunt Myrtle, Valeria, Holly, Dolce and Aggie were all so different, some more likeable than others, and they all had lessons to learn and demons to slay if they wanted to move on with their lives.

I really liked Harry, the younger man who is also taking a trip on the Ghan at the same time as Aggies and her family, there was something about him that drew me to him, I can understand the pull Aggie felt towards him when she first saw him and then actually met him. I really enjoyed the relationship between the two and held onto hope all the way to the end that things would work between them and it wouldn’t just be a fleeting romance. There was so much going on in Aggie’s life though, that I couldn’t be sure that my hopes would be met.

I wasn’t a fan of Valeria, Aggie’s mother, though I did feel sorry for her at times, to be that judgemental towards people would take a great deal of effort I imagine. Great Aunt Myrtle was a great character and I enjoyed her interactions with everyone.

Jam making was an interesting topic to learn about and I loved how much love they poured into the making of it. I was surprised at the passion and competitiveness between the family members, especially Valeria.

I absolutely enjoyed this novel and the Ghan trip through the outback definitely put itself firmly onto my bucket list.

Thanks to Better Reading Previews for a copy of this novel in return for an honest review.

AWW 2021

New Release Book Review: Ash Mountain by Helen Fitzgerald

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The start of this novel packs a punch, the description of the wall of fire bearing down on Fran as she runs to find her daughter is so visual I was there with Fran, running from this insane firey inferno.

This was a very emotional read, at the beginning, I found the first chapters a little hard to follow, but soon I was absorbed completely in the story. It jumps back and forth between the past starting 30 years before, and present, back to when Fran was a teenager and her experiences that played a major role in her future. This small town has a dark underbelly, which we get a real feel for as the story unrolls. The back story slowly works its way toward the present day and to where the story begins.

Fran and her family could be any one of us, getting by, dealing with what life throws at us the best we can. The family relationships were complicated and Fran’s return to Ash Mountain dregs up many feelings.

There were several scenes in the story, ones that involved the boarders from the catholic boys’ school, that had me shaking with fury, and with what has been going on in our media lately, it makes me wonder if some boy’s and men’s attitudes will ever change.

The devastating impact of fire is well known in Australia and Helen’s depiction of the fire itself and the devastation is extremely real. Both for the environment itself and for the people.

I posted after finishing this novel that this book was unputdownable and it certainly was, the ending, well, I won’t spoil it, but you are in for one hell of a ride.

Thanks to Better Reading Preview for a copy of this novel in return for an honest review.

AWW 2021

New Release Book Review: Ulara by Leesa Bow

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This was a really good read, with a very novel storyline. A story of travel, of soulmates, forbidden love, forbidden journey’s, secrets and ultimately finding out who you are and what you want from life; a journey of self-discovery.

I loved the way Eden and her friends went off travelling, each wanting different experiences from the trip and each having a go at what the other wanted to experience regardless of whether they thought they would enjoy it or not. It makes me want to do a lot more travelling, to go out of my comfort zone and find out what is underneath.

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One of the taglines states Even if it meant doing the one thing my father warned me not to do—enter the jungle. I wasn’t prepared for what awaited me.
And I won’t come out the same.” And that is certainly true for the journey that Eden finds herself on after meeting Samuel and deciding to hunt him down because her connection to him is that strong. While at first, I felt Eden made many mistakes after arriving in the jungle, especially when not listening to Samuel and taking what he said seriously, I felt that Eden’s growth really happened after Samuel left her there alone while he went on his own journey. But Eden isn’t the only one changed by her meeting with Samuel, Samuel is also changed and they both end up questioning where their paths are heading and if what they thought they wanted still holds true.

Samuel and Eden’s connection was on a soul level, but they both had issues they struggled with when it came to forming a relationship. I enjoyed seeing the relationship develop and morph into something deep.

I really enjoyed the portrayal of life for the Ularan tribes people, I found it fascinating and an interesting way of life. I can see why they would want to stay hidden and continue their ways. It’s a shame that the environment in which they live and survive is being decimated by the greed of humanity.

Eden’s family had some interesting dynamics, some that shift as the story progresses and some that you get more enlightenment about once Eden returns from her trip. There were some secrets uncovered which may have unknown outcomes down the track for everyone.

I can’t wait for book #2 Wild at Heart due to be released in August.

To read an excerpt click here

Links to buy now

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AUTHOR BIO

Leesa Bow is a romance author who began her writing journey years ago when her daughter fell ill. After writing for therapy Leesa now can’t imagine doing anything else. Thankful to be following her passion for romance, she is living out her own happy ever after with her husband in Brisbane, Australia.

In her spare time Leesa enjoys watching sport, having beach days with the family, catching up for coffee with girlfriends, and taking long walks. Most importantly the cinema dates with her husband to watch all the Marvel movies.

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New Release Book Review: The Codebreakers by Alli Sinclair

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I finished this book just before midnight, I couldn’t make myself put it down, to be continued another day just wasn’t going to happen, this book just had to be finished. It was brilliant, it left me with tears in my eyes, both happy tears and sad tears. What a remarkable story Alli Sinclair has weaved together in The Codebreakers. The amount of research that has gone into this novel is monumental and as with another wonderful Australian historical fiction novel, The Land Girls by Victoria Purman, this is a story about women and their courage and adaptability during the most trying times. A story that needed to be told, of secrets that have been kept for far too many years. Of the women who helped win the war and save countless lives.

The characters in this novel were so fully realised that it was easy to believe they were real people, to forget that it was fiction, that the author was telling the real story of these men and women is easy to believe.

Ellie, already working for the war effort as an engineer at Qantas, is recruited by Central Bureau to help crack codes, this is a highly secret division, especially for the women who work there and I could feel the internal war that Ellie waged trying to keep her job from her friends and family, it is not a situation I ever hope to find myself in.

I loved the friendships and relationships that Ellie developed, I especially loved her childhood friend Louis, what a fabulous friend to have. I loved her landlady Mrs Handley, if there was ever a mother substitute, she is the person you would want, and her friend Florry. The friendships she made with the girls in the Central Bureau were strong ones, that were sadly severed after the war. That would have been hard, losing the only people who knew what you’d been through.

So many people lost friends, lovers, husbands, sons during this time, that the urge to collapse in dispair must’ve been strong, yet everyone soldiered on, doing what had to be done and getting by the best they could.

There is a scene maybe two thirds of the way in where I had to stop and listen to one of my favourite songs.

It fit so perfectly with the story.

This was a fantastic read, which I highly recommend, full of many emotions and uncovering a long hidden history of the women who helped in the war.

Thanks to NetGalley and Harlequin Australia for a digital copy of this novel in return for an honest review.

New Release Book Review: Forrest’s #Win by Jennifer Cody

Forrest's #WinThis was an emotional read, dealing with two friends, Forrest and Blake, who have to learn to heal after Forrest is raped and Blake feels responsible for it happening.

These guys were gorgeous, Forrest lives his life by an extremely strict schedule and Blake is paid to help him manage everything. The friendship and understanding between these two were really lovely and it made it seem very organic to move from friendship to more when down the track they are forced to look at how they interact and how they really feel about the other.

When Blake sets Forrest up with a hookup, on his request, things go very wrong, and while the scene was graphic, it was short and I think the author did a good job of conveying the terror involved whilst still being sensitive to readers (please be aware this may be a trigger). Forrest doesn’t deal with this well, as you would expect, and neither does Blake, who blames himself. Thereafter follows a long journey of counselling for both of them, I really appreciate how well Jennifer Cody navigated the whole structure of this and how they moved forward, but not always in a straight line and not always without a few backwards steps; to portray anything else would be unrealistic.

Forrest’s way of talking and behaving was what I am guessing would be on the spectrum, as such it didn’t always flow smoothly, but that is how it is meant to be, the author did a good job, I think, of depicting his quirks and different ways of thinking and behaving.

Once again, this is another novel that shows us that sexuality is on a massive spectrum and things can change and emerge over time. When the novel starts, Blake is definitely into women, while Forrest is exploring his sexuality. Blake’s one night with a girl from Forrest’s D&D game has far-reaching consequences down the track and I wasn’t completely sure about this direction of the storyline, but still found it an enjoyable part of the read.

Thanks to the author for a digital copy in return for an honest review.

New Release Book Review and Excerpt: The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner

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This was such an interesting concept that I was immediately drawn to wanting to read The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner. A dual timeline novel, 1791 and the present day, these two stories are brought together when Caroline, our present-day character who once had dreams of being a historian and who has just found out her husband has cheated on her. Travelling on her own to London, she goes mudlarking (a term I’d never heard of before) and finds a small glass vial hidden in the mud of the Thames. This, in turn, leads her to investigate where it came from and in turn uncover a 200-year-old mystery.

Interspersed with Caroline’s story is Nella’s story, an apothecary who now also trades in poison for women wronged by men. And Eliza’s story, a young 12-year-old girl sent to Nella to get some poison on behalf of her mistress. Eliza is extremely fascinated with what it is that Nella does and when the chance comes to find out more, she does everything she can learn and understand the whats and the whys.

I admit to finding Nella and Eliza’s story in 1791, more interesting for most of the book, I didn’t really get much of a feel for Caroline for the majority of the story, until maybe the last third, where I just had to know how things were going to turn out for her.

Nella and Eliza make an unlikely pair, as they are thrown together, despite Nella’s misgivings, their story becomes a tangled tail of murder, vengeance and mystery.

As Caroline delves into the mystery of the vial, she finds that she is starting to discover a part of herself that has been forgotten, through marriage and expectations, and has some big decisions to make about her future and that of her marriage. I have to say, her husband was a right piece of work and I was hoping she would be strong and make decisions based on her needs and not his wants.

I had heard of poison being used to kill off people who had wronged you or who were in the way, obviously way back in the past, before we had testing for such substances, so I found it quite fascinating and I had no idea as to the extent that this kind of thing was used.

This was a very enjoyable read, thanks to HarperCollins Publishers for providing me with a digital copy of this novel in return for an honest review.

Read below for an excerpt.

The Lost Apothecary cover - FINAL

 

Excerpt

Nella

February 3, 1791

She would come at daybreak—the woman whose letter I held in my hands, the woman whose name I did not yet know.

I knew neither her age nor where she lived. I did not know her rank in society nor the dark things of which she dreamed when night fell. She could be a victim or a transgressor. A new wife or a vengeful widow. A nursemaid or a courtesan.

But despite all that I did not know, I understood this: the woman knew exactly who she wanted dead.

I lifted the blush-colored paper, illuminated by the dying f lame of a single rush wick candle. I ran my fingers over the ink of her words, imagining what despair brought the woman to seek out someone like me. Not just an apothecary, but a murderer. A master of disguise.

Her request was simple and straightforward. For my mistress’s husband, with his breakfast. Daybreak, 4 Feb. At once, I drew to mind a middle-aged housemaid, called to do the bidding of her mistress. And with an instinct perfected over the last two decades, I knew immediately the remedy most suited to this request: a chicken egg laced with nux vomica.

The preparation would take mere minutes; the poison was within reach. But for a reason yet unknown to me, something about the letter left me unsettled. It was not the subtle, woodsy odor of the parchment or the way the lower left corner curled forward slightly, as though once damp with tears. Instead, the disquiet brewed inside of me. An intuitive understanding that something must be avoided.

But what unwritten warning could reside on a single sheet of parchment, shrouded beneath pen strokes? None at all, I assured myself; this letter was no omen. My troubling thoughts were merely the result of my fatigue—the hour was late—and the persistent discomfort in my joints.

I drew my attention to my calfskin register on the table in front of me. My precious register was a record of life and death; an inventory of the many women who sought potions from here, the darkest of apothecary shops.

In the front pages of my register, the ink was soft, written with a lighter hand, void of grief and resistance. These faded, worn entries belonged to my mother. This apothecary shop for women’s maladies, situated at 3 Back Alley, was hers long before it was mine.

On occasion I read her entries—23 Mar 1767, Mrs. R. Ranford, Yarrow Milfoil 15 dr. 3x—and the words evoked memories of her: the way her hair fell against the back of her neck as she ground the yarrow stem with the pestle, or the taut, papery skin of her hand as she plucked seeds from the flower’s head. But my mother had not disguised her shop behind a false wall, and she had not slipped her remedies into vessels of dark red wine. She’d had no need to hide. The tinctures she dispensed were meant only for good: soothing the raw, tender parts of a new mother, or bringing menses upon a barren wife. Thus, she filled her register pages with the most benign of herbal remedies. They would raise no suspicion.

On my register pages, I wrote things such as nettle and hyssop and amaranth, yes, but also remedies more sinister: nightshade and hellebore and arsenic. Beneath the ink strokes of my register hid betrayal, anguish…and dark secrets.

Secrets about the vigorous young man who suffered an ailing heart on the eve of his wedding, or how it came to pass that a healthy new father fell victim to a sudden fever. My register laid it all bare: these were not weak hearts and fevers at all, but thorn apple juice and nightshade slipped into wines and pies by cunning women whose names now stained my register.

Oh, but if only the register told my own secret, the truth about how this all began. For I had documented every victim in these pages, all but one: Frederick. The sharp, black lines of his name defaced only my sullen heart, my scarred womb.

I gently closed the register, for I had no use of it tonight, and returned my attention to the letter. What worried me so? The edge of the parchment continued to catch my eye, as though something crawled beneath it. And the longer I remained at my table, the more my belly ached and my fingers trembled. In the distance, beyond the walls of the shop, the bells on a carriage sounded frighteningly similar to the chains on a constable’s belt. But I assured myself that the bailiffs would not come tonight, just as they had not come for the last two decades. My shop, like my poisons, was too cleverly disguised. No man would find this place; it was buried deep behind a cupboard wall at the base of a twisted alleyway in the darkest depths of London.

I drew my eyes to the soot-stained wall that I had not the heart, nor the strength, to scrub clean. An empty bottle on a shelf caught my reflection. My eyes, once bright green like my mother’s, now held little life within them. My cheeks, too, once flushed with vitality, were sallow and sunken. I had the appearance of a ghost, much older than my forty-one years of age.

Tenderly, I began to rub the round bone in my left wrist, swollen with heat like a stone left in the fire and forgotten. The discomfort in my joints had crawled through my body for years; it had grown so severe, I lived not a waking hour without pain. Every poison I dispensed brought a new wave of it upon me; some evenings, my fingers were so distended and stiff, I felt sure the skin would split open and expose what lay underneath.

Killing and secret-keeping had done this to me. It had begun to rot me from the inside out, and something inside meant to tear me open.

At once, the air grew stagnant, and smoke began to curl into the low stone ceiling of my hidden room. The candle was nearly spent, and soon the laudanum drops would wrap me in their heavy warmth. Night had long ago fallen, and she would arrive in just a few hours: the woman whose name I would add to my register and whose mystery I would begin to unravel, no matter the unease it brewed inside of me.

Excerpted from The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner, Copyright © 2021 by Sarah Penner. Published by Park Row Books. 

The Lost Apothecary : A Novel by Sarah Penner

On Sale Date: March 2, 2021

About the Book:

In this addictive and spectacularly imagined debut, a female apothecary secretly dispenses poisons to liberate women from the men who have wronged them—setting three lives across centuries on a dangerous collision course. Pitched as Kate Morton meets The Miniaturist, The Lost Apothecary is a bold work of historical fiction with a rebellious twist that heralds the coming of an explosive new talent.

A forgotten history. A secret network of women. A legacy of poison and revenge. Welcome to The Lost Apothecary…

Hidden in the depths of eighteenth-century London, a secret apothecary shop caters to an unusual kind of clientele. Women across the city whisper of a mysterious figure named Nella who sells well-disguised poisons to use against the oppressive men in their lives. But the apothecary’s fate is jeopardized when her newest patron, a precocious twelve-year-old, makes a fatal mistake, sparking a string of consequences that echo through the centuries.

Meanwhile in present-day London, aspiring historian Caroline Parcewell spends her tenth wedding anniversary alone, running from her own demons. When she stumbles upon a clue to the unsolved apothecary murders that haunted London two hundred years ago, her life collides with the apothecary’s in a stunning twist of fate—and not everyone will survive.

With crackling suspense, unforgettable characters and searing insight, The Lost Apothecary is a subversive and intoxicating debut novel of secrets, vengeance and the remarkable ways women can save each other despite the barrier of time.

About the Author:

Sarah Penner is the debut author of The Lost Apothecary, to be translated in eleven languages worldwide. She works full-time in finance and is a member of the Historical Novel Society and the Women’s Fiction Writers Association. She and her husband live in St. Petersburg, Florida, with their miniature dachshund, Zoe. To learn more, visit slpenner.com.

Social Links:

Author website: https://www.sarahpenner.com/

Facebook: @SarahPennerAuthor            Instagram: @sarah_penner_author      

Twitter: @sl_penner

Buy Links:

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New Release Book Review: A Week to Remember by Esther Campion

A Week to RememberThis is the third book I have read by Esther Campion, Leaving Ocean Road and House of Second Chances were both very enjoyable reads. This one loosely connects the characters we meet in those two books but is otherwise a complete standalone.

I enjoyed returning to the small Irish town in West Cork where Ellen and Gerry have finally opened their holiday farmhouse to visitors. It is at this farmhouse where the story takes place. 7 very different characters decide to holiday at the farmhouse in that first week. A couple whose marriage is going through something, a middle-aged dentist who has lost the joy in life, a young woman who is trying to determine what she wants from life, and a long lost resident of the town who has spent half her life running from her past.

As I got to know each of the characters and uncover their backstories and see where they were at, I got very involved in hoping that things would work out the best way for each of them. Each one in their own way is trying to determine where their lives and relationships are heading and where they went wrong along the way. It was a joy to travel with these people and see where the stay in this beautiful rugged place led them in their journeys.

Thanks to NetGalley and Harlequin Australia for a digital copy of this novel in return for an honest review.

AWW 2021