The Sunday Lunch Club by Juliet Ashton – 4.5*s @julietstories #sundaylunchclub @simonschusterUK @BookMinxSJV

Sunday Lunch Club


The first rule of Sunday Lunch Club is … don’t make any afternoon plans.

Every few Sundays, Anna and her extended family and friends get together for lunch. They talk, they laugh, they bicker, they eat too much. Sometimes the important stuff is left unsaid, other times it’s said in the wrong way.

Sitting between her ex-husband and her new lover, Anna is coming to terms with an unexpected pregnancy at the age of forty. Also at the table are her ageing grandmother, her promiscuous sister, her flamboyantly gay brother and a memory too terrible to contemplate.

Until, that is, a letter arrives from the person Anna scarred all those years ago. Can Anna reconcile her painful past with her uncertain future?


My Review

Having had a reading and reviewing lay off due to chemotherapy, I’ve got a pile of books I’m chomping at the bit to read, and this was top of the pile. Who could resist the enticing cover and blurb. While it took me longer to read than I would have liked (my concentration level is still not up to speed) I couldn’t have picked a better come back book – I loved it.

Books about families are always a hit with me, they either make you feel yours are not as bad as you thought, or make you wish you a had more functional one! The Piper family in this book, along with associated friends and lovers (both past and present) are not your average family.  Certainly not dysfunctional, but not exactly functional, but the one word they share with both is fun. No matter what crisis or disaster befalls, for the most part, there is a balancing humour to soften the blow. But as in life, not everything can be solved by laughter and the book deals with some serious real life issues. This stops the book from being an endless round of  Sunday lunch dates as the threads that runs through keep you engaged to the end.  That said, I also loved the foodie element varying as it did from high-end cuisine, through to good home cooking, via disastrous and hap-hazard.

There’s the standard pecking order and roles that all families adopt that are instantly recognisable and it’s easy to be, by turn, sympathetic, annoyed, amused and enchanted by the regular goings on at their meet ups. Anna is definitely the mother hen, wanting the best for her siblings, though they don’t always see it that way. Her brothers Neil and Josh, have difficulty coming to terms with their lives, having spent the best part of their lives denying how they feel. Maeve is the younger sister, who has never really grown up and overseeing them all is grandma who sees and understands far more than they give her credit for.  By the end of the book, I was thoroughly captivated by the way the story played out for each of them, as they came to recognise and accept themselves for what they are.

Of course it’s not just the relationships within the family that evolve and in some cases dissolve, but those with friends and lovers. I defy anyone not to fall in love with Luca, and I was hanging on until the bitter end wanting the right outcome – you of course will have to read the book to discover whether that happens.

With all good stories there are secrets and lies that gradually unravel and this one is no  exception and there are some surprising disclosures that I never saw coming which is always a good thing.

If the book were a recipe I’d say take a mix of family and friends, add food, feuds and misunderstandings. Layer with a generous helping of warmth and love then sprinkle with a few secrets and lies. Serve in large slices with a hearty cuppa.

It’s a great, feel-good read that really touches the heart and I happily recommend it.

Book due out 19th April. Available to pre-order here


Five on Friday with Anne Coates @Anne_Coates1

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Image credited to Phil Gammon


Today I’m delighted to introduce Anne Coates, another successful author from the  Urbane Publications stable. Having returned to writing and introducing us to Hannah Weybridge, it’s great to see this series take off and to be able to promote a lovely lady who serves as a reminder that it’s never to late to follow your writing dreams.


For most of her working life in publishing, Anne has had a foot in both camps as a writer and an editor, moving from book publishing to magazines and then freelancing in both.

Having edited both fiction and narrative non-fiction, Anne has also had short stories published in a variety of magazines including Bella and Candis and is the author of seven non-fiction books.

Born in Clapham, Anne returned to London after graduating and has remained there ever since. In an attempt to climb out of her comfort zone, Anne has twice “trod the boards” – as Prince Bourgrelas in Ubu Roi when a student and more recently as a nun in a local murder mystery production. She also sings periodically in a local church choir and is relieved when she begins and finishes at the same time – though not necessarily on the same note – as everyone else. Needless to say, Anne will not be giving up her day job as an editor and writer.

Telling stories is Anne’s first love and nearly all her short fiction as well as Dancers in The Wind began with a real event followed by a “what if …” That is also the case with the two prize-winning stories: Codewords and Eternal Love.

Dancers in the Wind published in October 2016 was followed by Death’s Silent Judgement in May 2017. The third in the series, Songs of Innocence will be published in May, 2018.


Which 5 pieces of music/songs would you include in the soundtrack to your life and why?


Not a lover of musical theatre or films, I couldn’t understand why I knew all the words to songs from The Sound of Music (when I’d never seen it). However my sister went to drama school and often practised these songs for auditions. So if you ever need a rendition of High on a hill – I’m your woman.

A must include would be the first classical LP I bought – Sibelius Symphonies Nos 3 and 7. My music education at school left much to be desired so I had to explore for myself. I was blown away by Sibelius the first time I heard these symphonies and many other classical composers like Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov inspire me.

I had always thought brass instruments were the Cinderellas of the orchestra until my daughter started learning the trumpet when she was six or seven. I can’t choose one particular piece but anything she played (after passing through the first few grades) gave me great joy and when I hear brass instruments now I get the same tingle.

Dusty is still a favourite if I feel like having a sing-along – on my own I hasten to add. Not many would want to hear me squeaking “I just don’t know what to do with myself.”

The first time I sang Fauré’s Requiem with my local church choir, I nearly had a nervous breakdown. Singing in Latin! However I join in every year and like to think I am actually improving.


Highlight 5 things (apart from family and friends) you’d find it hard to live without.


My three cats – Alice, Phoebe and Freddie will kill me if I don’t mention them! They are very affectionate and put up with me mumbling to myself when I’m writing. Ever since I had my own home I’ve had a cat – often joined by a second… and for 131/2 years I had the joyful company of Fliss, our West Highland terrier. I miss having a dog but they do tie you down.

Books – obviously. I do manage to cull these now and again as I have a lot of non-fiction sent to me for review on my parenting website. But there are books I’ll never part with. I can still remember the absolute joy of holding a book with my name on as author or translator and this thrill remains.

The sea – London has been my home for most of my life and I try to make the most of the opportunities the city offers but I would be bereft if I couldn’t make regular visits to the sea at home or abroad. I went to Portsmouth University and it was a revelation to experience the coast in all its manifestations throughout the seasons.

Theatre – I love live performances and have been privileged to see some great actors on stage but I also enjoy fringe. My mother trained as a ballet dancer and was born in Waterloo where she used to go to The Old Vic with her mother. Every time I go there I think of them (and how my mother used to be so embarrassed as my grandmother always took a crusty cheese and onion roll!).

My computer – this covers a multitude of things I couldn’t live without as it gives me access to radio, TV and films and books plus it’s where I store my photos. Fortunately, I managed to stop playing solitaire on it but I had to go cold turkey!


Can you offer 5 pieces of advice you’d give to your younger self?


Don’t worry so much! I used to worry about everything from being too skinny (not a problem I have now) to not having a boyfriend. I still worry now but try to keep life in perspective.

If someone makes you unhappy – move away from them. I think most of us have had relationships that are draining. The relief when you’ve said goodbye is so invigorating.

Learn to say no – you can’t please everyone and you can’t do everything. Your time is precious. Make the most of it.

Don’t compare yourself to others – a difficult one as I still do this at times. A total waste of energy.

Trust your gut instinct – always!


Tell us 5 things that most people don’t know about you.

I translated an erotic novel from French but used a nom de plume.

Once had an abstract bird picture I’d painted in an exhibition in Harlow Library.

The first magazine article I wrote was about joining a tap dancing class – I didn’t give up my day job but did hang up my tap shoes.

I used to advise on parenting issues for the BBC Asian network – they are based in Birmingham but I sat in an unmanned studio in the basement at Broadcasting House in London waiting for people to call in. A bizarre experience.

I make a mean Martini (according to my daughter!).


What are the first 5 things you’d have on your bucket list?


Join a life drawing or portrait painting class.

Volunteer at the elephant refuge my daughter went to in Thailand. It was an amazing experience for her and I love elephants. Some of those wonderful creatures had been severely traumatised.

Learn to play a musical instrument to a reasonable level. I started off as a child with a recorder and had some piano lessons with a terrible teacher. I began classical guitar – just as I was studying for my A levels so couldn’t devote the necessary time to it. I have a keyboard waiting at home …

Discover more of the flora and fauna in the UK.

Travel – there are so many places I’d like to visit. Perhaps I ought to have a “gap year” but I know I would miss my family and friends too much.


Fabulous answers Anne, I’m with you on a dog, books and the sea for starters. I also started to learn to play the guitar (without much progress). I hope you get the chance to volunteer to work with elephants, they are amazing creatures. 

 o – 0 – o


Anne’s Books


Dancers in the Wind (Hannah Weybridge Book 1)

Freelance journalist and single mother Hannah Weybridge is commissioned by a national newspaper to write an investigative article on the notorious red light district in Kings Cross. There she meets prostitute Princess, and police inspector in the vice squad, Tom Jordan. When Princess later arrives on her doorstep beaten up so badly she is barely recognisable, Hannah has to make some tough decisions and is drawn ever deeper into the world of deceit and violence. 

Three sex workers are murdered, their deaths covered up in a media blackout, and Hannah herself is under threat. As she comes to realise that the taste for vice reaches into the higher echelons of the great and the good, Hannah realises she must do everything in her power to expose the truth …. and stay alive.


Deaths Silent Judgement (Hannah Weybridge Book 2)

Following the deadly events of Dancers in the Wind, freelance journalist and single mother Hannah Weybridge is thrown into the heart of a horrific murder investigation when a friend, Liz Rayman, is found with her throat slashed at her dental practice. 

With few clues to the apparently motiveless crime Hannah throws herself into discovering the reason for her friend’s brutal murder, and is determined to unmask the killer. But before long Hannah’s investigations place her in mortal danger, her hunt for the truth placing her in the path of a remorseless killer…



Songs of Innocence (Hannah Weybridge Bk 3)

This will be published in May, 2018






You can keep up to date with Anne via


Her website


Five on Friday with Stephanie Butland @under_blue_sky

Today I’m delighted to introduce Stephanie Butland to share her thoughts with us. I’ve loved all of Stephanie’s book and her last title Lost for Words made it into my Top Five books of 2017.

Stephanie Butland

Author Bio:-

Stephanie Butland lives in Northumberland, close to the place where she grew up. She writes in a studio at the bottom of her garden, and loves being close to the sea. She’s thriving after cancer.


Which 5 pieces of music/songs would you include in the soundtrack to your life and why?



Something by Duran Duran. They were my teen crush.

Zippedy Doo Da because my Dad used to sing it (I must remind him, haven’t heard it for a while)

Paul Simon’s Graceland. In the 1980s was the soundtrack of car journeys with my family; I went with my parents to see him in concert last year.

A little bit of Bach. I rarely listen to music when I’m working, but if I do it’s a Bach concerto. (Actually, I rarely listen to anything without words.)

Famous Blue Raincoat’ by Leonard Cohen. It was the first Leonard Cohen song I heard, in about 1986, though I think it was a Jennifer Rush cover version! Leonard Cohen songs have been a constant in my life. Words, words, words.


Highlight 5 things (apart from family and friends) you’d find it hard to live without.


A knitting project. Knitting helps me to think and relax, and I love making things for people I love. I take knitting everywhere. I once had my needles confiscated on the way through airport security and I was lost! (I take wooden needles for travel knitting now.)

Fruit. But only the exciting sort. You can keep your apples and your evil bananas (yuck). But I could cheerfully live on berries, cherries, melons and pears, with Parma ham on the side for dinner and a chocolate cake garnish for dessert!

The sea. Walking on a beach, rain or shine, was part of my upbringing in Northumberland and is what I miss when I’m away. I moved back to Northumberland 7 years ago and being near the sea again is one of the best things in my life.

Notebooks and pens and pencils and every sort of post-it. All of the stationery, basically.

And all of the books. I get a bit panicky if I’m nearly finished one book and haven’t already decided what I’m reading next.


Can you offer 5 pieces of advice you’d give to your younger self?

Never get drunk on advocaat.

Relax and be kind. No-one is judging you as harshly as you judge yourself.

Some things can’t be rushed. Wait.

Say yes to that first-term offer at college. You know the one… If you don’t you’ll always wonder what might have happened.

Not everything that feels personal is personal.


Tell us 5 things that most people don’t know about you.


I’m a coward when it comes to films – it’s rare that I’ll see anything with a certificate higher than 15

I can spin yarn on a spinning wheel

I loathe and despise pantomimes

I have absolutely no sense of direction (why is north not uphill?)

I have not eaten sweetcorn since the time I was 15 and had a gastric bug and I was sick with such force that the sweetcorn I’d recently eaten POURED OUT OF MY NOSE. You’re welcome.


What are the first 5 things you’d have on your bucket list?

Visit St Kilda. We tried when we went to the Outer Hebrides last year but the weather was against us.

Stay in the Ice Hotel

Appear on Strictly (and stay long enough to get to do a waltz and a tango)

Write a book while living in a loft apartment in New York

Spend a concentrated period of time learning to do something that had no practical use. Ideally, a month somewhere remote in China learning to write Chinese characters.


Some great answers there Stephanie and many that resonate. I too was lucky enough to see Paul Simon last year and that concert will remain a highlight. I detest Pantomimes with a passion, my film forays are also to see ‘tame’ films and as for advocaat I daren’t think how many it took to get drunk – I’d have stopped at the first sip!  Many thanks for taking part.

o – 0 – o

  Stephanie’s Books


Letters to my Husband – my review here

Dear Mike, I can’t believe that it’s true. You wouldn’t do this to me. You promised.
Elizabeth knows that her husband is kind and good and that he loves her unconditionally. She knows she hasn’t been herself lately but that, even so, they are happy.
But Elizabeth’s world is turned upside down when Mike dies in a tragic drowning accident. Suddenly everything Elizabeth knows about her husband is thrown into doubt. Why would he sacrifice his own life, knowing he’d never see his wife again? And what exactly was he doing at the lake that night?
Elizabeth knows that writing to Mike won’t bring him back, but she needs to talk to him now more than ever . . .
How much can you ever know about the people you love?


The Other Half of my Heart – my review here

Fifteen years ago Bettina May’s life’s veered off course in one disastrous night. Still reeling from the shock of losing everything she thought was hers, Bettina opens a bakery in a village and throws herself into the comfort of bread-making.

She spends her days kneading dough and measuring ingredients. She meets someone. She begins to heal.

Until someone who knows what happens that night walks into Bettina’s bakery. In the pause of a heartbeat, fifteen years disappear and Bettina remembers a time she thought was lost for ever . . .

Can she ever go back?


Lost for Words – my review here


Loveday Cardew prefers books to people. If you look carefully, you might glimpse the first lines of the novels she loves most tattooed on her skin. But there are some things Loveday will never show you.

Into her refuge – the York book emporium where she works – come a poet, a lover, a friend, and three mysterious deliveries, each of which stirs unsettling memories.

Everything is about to change for Loveday. Someone knows about her past and she can’t hide any longer. She must decide who around her she can trust. Can she find the courage to right a heartbreaking wrong? And will she ever find the words to tell her own story?

It’s time to turn the pages of her past . . .


The great news is that we can look forward to a new offering from Stephanie in the very near future and I for one, can’t wait. The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae will be published on 19th April but is available to pre-order on Amazon now.  Here’s a little glimpse to whet your appetite (details taken from Amazon).


The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae

Ailsa Rae is learning how to live.

She’s only a few months past the heart transplant that – just in time – saved her life. Life should be a joyful adventure. But . . .

Her relationship with her mother is at breaking point.
She knows she needs to find her father.
She’s missed so much that her friends have left her behind.
She’s felt so helpless for so long that she’s let polls on her blog make her decisions for her. And now she barely knows where to start on her own.

And then there’s Lennox. Her best friend and one time lover. He was sick too. He didn’t make it. And now she’s supposed to face all of this without him.

But her new heart is a bold heart.

She just needs to learn to listen to it . . .


If you’d like to know more about Stephanie or keep up to date with what she’s doing you can find out more via her website and social media.

Stephanie’s website







Five on Friday with Christine Webber @1chriswebber

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Today I’m delighted to introduce Christine Webber to share her thoughts with us. Christine and I first came into contact when I was asked to read and review Who’d Have Thought It? which I was more than happy to do. As a result I’m now looking forward to her forthcoming book It’s Who We Are – of which more later. Being of a similar age and mindset, we’ve kept in touch and I’m as keen as anyone to discover more about her.

Author Bio:-

Christine Webber originally trained as an opera singer but had to re-think her career plans when her voice professor told her: ‘Your voice is OK, but your legs are very much better!’

Musical theatre beckoned. There was some success. But not much.

In 1979, she became a news presenter for Anglia TV. At last she had found something she enjoyed that other people thought she was good at.  It was such a happy relief that she stayed for 12 years. Towards the end of that period, In Honour Bound, her first novel, was published.

After leaving Anglia Television, she became an agony aunt for various publications including TV Times, Best, Dare and BBC Parenting. And she wrote a relationship advice column for The Scotsman and one for Woman, called Sexplanations. She also regularly broadcast advice on Trisha, The Good Sex Guide …Late and from the BBC’s Breakfast sofa.

During her ‘problem page’ years, she decided to train as a psychotherapist. This led to her having a practice in Harley Street.   

Christine has written twelve non-fiction books including How to Mend a Broken Heart and Too Young to Get Old. She has also ghosted and consulted on several celebrity books. But her intention was always to find time to return to writing fiction. In 2016, she published a novel about romance in mid-life called Who’d Have Thought It? This new novel also explores what it is to be fifty-something (or older) in today’s turbulent world.


Which 5 pieces of music/songs would you include in the soundtrack to your life and why?


I trained as a singer at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in the mid-sixties. Though I really wasn’t good enough to have a viable career in it, music is the thread in my life that holds everything else together. It’s hard therefore to limit myself to five works. But here goes:

1. I didn’t actually know what a ballet was, but when I was about eight, we had a school visit to see a production of Coppelia. I was transported into a completely different and thrillingly wonderful world, which I just knew, right there and then, was always going to be important. So, I will pick the well-known Mazurka from that ballet as my first choice.

2. My mum was Scottish and had a lovely contralto voice. And she particularly liked a song called Oh Rowan Tree. That’s Number Two.  

3. For my third choice, I’m picking ‘Two Sleepy People’ sung and played by Peter Skellern. I was in the same year as Peter at the Guildhall School. He was very quiet and unassuming. No one would have guessed what a star he’d become. I met him years later on a television programme. He hadn’t changed a bit – he was just a lovely, musical, sensitive soul. I was very sad to learn some months ago that he had died of dementia. But his music lives on

4. When my husband and I were in Vienna at a medical conference in December 2006, we went to hear the Mozart Requiem in St Michael’s church. It was a full mass rather than just a concert, and it was on the actual anniversary of Mozart’s death. Even more extraordinary was the fact that the completed parts of that work had been given their world premiere in that very church in 1791. It was a deeply moving evening. So, I’m selecting the Mozart Requiem for this list because I can never hear it without thinking of that amazing occasion.   

5. My final choice is the last movement of Beethoven’s Choral Symphony when the choir sing the Ode to Joy. When the Berlin wall came down in 1989, there was a concert soon afterwards, from Berlin, conducted by Leonard Bernstein which was televised. It was extremely emotional, but inspiring, particularly that final chorus. I find it incredibly painful to hear right now because of all the upheaval over us leaving the EU. But at the same time, it reminds me that goodness and joy are more important than anything, and that hopefully they will prevail.


Highlight 5 things (apart from family and friends) you’d find it hard to live without.


My piano

My collection of Vinyl and CDs

My well-stocked Kindle

A good, soft, dark-grey eyeliner pencil


Can you offer 5 pieces of advice you’d give to your younger self?

It’s OK, you will escape Croydon eventually.

It’s never too late to start things that you love (I began taking ballet classes at 63) but having said that, why don’t you get on with it now?   

Happiness is a choice. And you can keep opting for it – rather than dwelling on the bad things that happen – till happiness becomes a habit. When you grow up you’ll write a book about it. But start selecting the happiness option now and life will improve for you – and even more for everyone around you!

You’ll be 40 before you feel totally and truly loved – but it’s worth waiting for.

Work hard at being super-fit. Not just for your body but – much more importantly – your brain.  


Tell us 5 things that most people don’t know about you.

When I was an out-of-work actress I worked as a Fisher Price toy demonstrator in Hamleys.

During my time as a television news presenter, I once interviewed a lion tamer, at a circus, inside the cage alongside six lions

Back in the very early eighties, I helped to found a cardiac charity which became known as The Norfolk Zipper Club. It’s a wonderful organisation – not least because it has raised over a million pounds for Papworth hospital, which is where most of the members had their life-saving surgery.  

I was in a group of medical journalists and doctors who were kidnapped and forced to spend the night in a freezing cold hotel on the banks of Lake Titicaca in Peru. Fortunately, we were freed the next morning.

I’m mad about rugby – Irish rugby in particular – and am a member of Munster Rugby club. I’ve got the jersey, hat, scarf and everything!


What are the first 5 things you’d have on your bucket list?

I want to join a really good choir

I have a huge desire to see St Petersburg and to go to an opera and a ballet in the Mariinsky Theatre

I want to make the trip to see my team, Munster Rugby, play at home at the legendary Thomand Park.  

I absolutely love Switzerland – not just the scenery, and the order, and the efficiency of it all, but the fantastic and different types of rail transport that they have. I hear that there’s a brand new funicular railway, the steepest in the world, quite near Lucerne. I definitely want to go on it!  

I want to master a piano piece by Chopin called The Grande Valse Brilliante. I can play some of it but there’s a chunk near the end that is really difficult and I just need to find the time to work slowly and carefully on it, and get it into the fingers and brain. I’ve been promising myself I’ll do it for about eight years. Maybe 2018…


Thanks so much for sharing with us Christine. I’m pleased to say my trip to Lake Titicaca was far more mundane than yours, but what a great story to dine out on! I doubt very few others can lay claim to being kidnapped or in a cage with lions (despite having the lion tamer in there – the 6 lions I think had the edge).  I think that trip to Thomand Park should be on the cards for 2018. 

o – 0 – o

Christine’s Fiction Books



Christine’s forthcoming book published 16th January  

It’s Who We Are is a story about five friends in their fifties who find themselves dealing with unforeseen upheaval as they uncover long-hidden and devastating family secrets. It takes place between October 2016 and June 2017, against a backdrop of all the political uncertainty and change in the UK, Europe and America. The novel is set in East Anglia, London and Ireland, and explores the importance of friendship, kindness and identity – and how vital it is to reach for what enhances rather than depletes you.



A year after discovering that her husband no longer loves her, Dr Annie Templeton wakes up with a sudden relish for singledom. However, she soon realises that being single in your fifties is very different from being single in your twenties.
How, she wonders, do people of my age – with careers, adult children doing unwise things with unwise people, parents going gaga, and friends falling ill, or in or out of love – ever have the time and energy to find a new partner?

My review of Who’d Have Thought It?







#ThrowbackThursday – Letters to my Husband by Stephanie Butland – 5*s @under_blue_sky #review

Throwback Thursday

Throwback Thursday is a weekly meme hosted by Renee at It’s Book Talk. Throwback Thursday was designed as an opportunity to share old favorites as well as older books in our TBR. As I started reviewing on Goodreads long before I started my blog, it seemed a great way of sharing my earlier reviews (which I hope have improved since the early days).

So this week I’m revisiting  Letters to My Husband – first reviewed in April 2015.


Amazon Description

Dear Mike, I can’t believe that it’s true. You wouldn’t do this to me. You promised.

Elizabeth knows that her husband is kind and good and that he loves her unconditionally. She knows she hasn’t been herself lately but that, even so, they are happy. But Elizabeth’s world is turned upside down when Mike dies in a tragic drowning accident. Suddenly everything Elizabeth knows about her husband is thrown into doubt. Why would he sacrifice his own life, knowing he’d never see his wife again? And what exactly was he doing at the lake that night?Elizabeth knows that writing to Mike won’t bring him back, but she needs to talk to him now more than ever . . .

How much can you ever know about the people you love?


My Review

Despite the melancholy subject of this book, I loved it and if this is a debut novel then it bodes well for future titles.

The book opens with Elizabeth’s first letter to her husband Mike, after she’s been told he’s been drowned in a tragic accident. While out walking the dog, he saves a young woman Kate Micklethwaite from drowning but somehow loses his own life.

It is not clear what happened and Kate can’t remember, so Elizabeth doesn’t even have the comfort of knowing how/why he drowned. As police officer, Mike had previously been involved in a Fire rescue, this incident consolidates his standing as a local hero. I don’t intend revealing any more of the plot as you really need to discover it for yourself to feel the full impact.

The book develops by alternating chapters of Now, Then and latterly Between as facts begin to emerge. Consequently we get a full picture of how Elizabeth and Mike met and married along with the ups and downs of their relationship. It also fleshes out the other characters and their lives, particularly Kate who plays an increasingly pivotal role in the way the book develops.

The book presents a heartbreaking portrait of Elizabeth as she struggles to come to terms with Mike’s death. It is a study in grief in all its facets and how it affects each person differently and how they develop strategies to cope. It is of course not just Elizabeth, but also Mike’s mother, his best friends and Elizabeth’s sister Mel. So as well as a book about grief, it’s a book about friendships and relationships. It’s a book about people perceive themselves and how they are perceived by others

As the story progresses it is clear that many of those perceptions may be shattered as there are unacknowledged tensions and secrets that will eventually surface. It is those hints and suspicions that keep you reading to the end, as well as the heartbreaking letters. I cannot recommend this book highly enough and happily give it 5 stars which is not something I do regularly.


Book Haul – week ended 6th January 2018

Happy New Year and here’s hoping it’s a bumper reading year for all of us. Luckily I don’t make resolutions as one of them might have been to cut down on acquiring books, as this week shows, that is showing no signs of slowing down – but I live in hope!


Kindle Purchases


Date with DeathDate With Death by Julia Chapman

Samson O’Brien has been dismissed from the police force, and returns to his hometown of Bruncliffe in the Yorkshire Dales to set up the Dales Detective Agency while he fights to clear his name. However, the people of Bruncliffe aren’t that welcoming to a man they see as trouble.

Delilah Metcalfe, meanwhile, is struggling to keep her business, the Dales Dating Agency, afloat – as well as trying to control her wayward Weimaraner dog, Tolpuddle. Then when Samson gets his first case, investigating the supposed suicide of a local man, things take an unexpected turn, and soon he discovers a trail of deaths that lead back to the door of Delilah’s agency.

With suspicion hanging over someone they both care for, the two feuding neighbours soon realize that they need to work together to solve the mystery of the dating deaths. But working together is easier said than done . . .


LarkinlandLarkinland by Jonathan Tulloch

Arriving in 1950s Hull, Arthur Merryweather finds himself lodging with the landlady from hell, and falling in love with fellow librarian Niamh O’Leary. But just as their love threatens to bloom, the mystery of Mr Bleaney, the enigmatic insurance salesman who rented his room before him, threatens to pull the poet into disaster and cast him into the criminal hinterland of ‘fish town’, that sublimely banal Larkinland ‘beached on the mudflats at the end of the railway line, like a brick seal with a woodbine in its gob’.

Hilarious, hugely enjoyable and deeply moving, Larkinland is the most compelling love story, mystery and biographical novel you are likely to read.

A pitch-perfect realisation of Larkin’s poetic world, the author also cooks up his own set of moving misadventures, which reveal the loneliness, commonplaces, fears, lusts and hope we all must face. Drawing on meetings with the women in Larkin’s life, Larkinland casts startlingly fresh light on one of Britain’s greatest ever poets.


Lemon Tree CafeThe Lemon Tree Cafe by Cathy Bramley

When Rosie Featherstone finds herself unexpectedly jobless, the offer to help her beloved Italian grandmother out at the Lemon Tree Cafe – a little slice of Italy nestled in the rolling hills of Derbyshire – feels like the perfect way to keep busy.

Surrounded by the rich scent of espresso, delicious biscotti and juicy village gossip, Rosie soon finds herself falling for her new way of life. But she is haunted by a terrible secret, one that even the appearance of a handsome new face can’t quite help her move on from.

Then disaster looms and the cafe’s fortunes are threatened . . . and Rosie discovers that her nonna has been hiding a dark past of her own. With surprises, betrayal and more than one secret brewing, can she find a way to save the Lemon Tree Cafe and help both herself and Nonna achieve the happy endings they deserve?


See Me NotSee Me Not by Janelle Harris

How well do you really know your Facebook friends? 

My husband loves me. 
I love him. 
But, a secret is eating us alive. 

It’s not the one I keep from him. 
It’s not the one he couldn’t keep from me. 
And, someone knows everything. 

A stranger. A stalker. An online nightmare. 
I’ve got mail. 


Secrets Between UsThe Secrets Between Us by Laura Madeleine

High in the mountains in the South of France, eighteen-year-old Ceci Corvin is trying hard to carry on as normal. But in 1943, there is no such thing as normal; especially not for a young woman in love with the wrong person. Scandal, it would seem, can be more dangerous than war.

Fifty years later, Annie is looking for her long-lost grandmother. Armed with nothing more than a sheaf of papers, she travels from England to Paris in pursuit of the truth. But as she traces her grandmother’s story, Annie uncovers something she wasn’t expecting, something that changes everything she knew about her family – and everything she thought she knew about herself…

Dangerous CrossingDangerous Crossing by Rachel Rhys

England, September 1939
Lily Shepherd boards a cruise liner for a new life in Australia and is plunged into a world of cocktails, jazz and glamorous friends. But as the sun beats down, poisonous secrets begin to surface. Suddenly Lily finds herself trapped with nowhere to go …

Australia, six-weeks later
The world is at war, the cruise liner docks, and a beautiful young woman is escorted onto dry land in handcuffs.

What has she done?


Finding AlisonFinding Alison by Deirdre Eustace

Grief and guilt. Love and resentment. A community divided.

No one in Carniskey has ever truly understood what led Sean Delaney, a seasoned local fisherman, to risk his life in a high storm in the dead of night. Now, three years on from that tragic night, his wife Alison is still struggling with her unresolved grief and increasing financial worries.

After three difficult years, Alison has grown distant from her daughter and estranged from her friends and fellow villagers, particularly her best friend Kathleen who harbours a deeply guarded secret of her own. Isolated by its stunning yet often cruel surroundings, this is a community used to looking after its own but the arrival of an outsider – artist and lifelong nomad, William – offers Alison a new perspective on life and love that threatens to unearth the mysteries of the past.


BurningThe Burning by Jane Casey

The media call him The Burning Man, a brutal murderer who has beaten four young women to death, before setting their bodies ablaze in secluded areas of London’s parks. And now the fifth victim has been found…

Maeve Kerrigan is an ambitious detective constable, keen to make her mark on the murder task force. Her male colleagues believe Maeve’s empathy makes her weak, but the more she learns about the latest victim, Rebecca Haworth, from her grieving friends and family, the more determined Maeve becomes to bring her murderer to justice.

But how do you catch a killer no one has seen? And when so much of the evidence they leave behind has gone up in smoke?


Stranger You KnowThe Stranger You Know by Jane Casey

He meets women.
He gains their trust.
He kills them.

That’s all Maeve Kerrigan knows about the man she is hunting. Three women have been strangled in their homes by the same sadistic killer. With no sign of a break-in, every indication shows that they let him in.

But the evidence is pointing at a shocking suspect: DI Josh Derwent, Maeve’s colleague.

Maeve refuses to believe he could be involved, but how well does she really know him? Because this isn’t the first time Derwent’s been accused of murder…


Tehran MoonlightThe Tehran Moonlight by Azin Sametipour

Love, loyalty and identity collide in Azin Sametipour’s compelling debut novel, Tehran Moonlight. Vividly set in a country where women have no voice, one woman’s fight for love and her own identity result in unimaginable consequences.
She was 23, beautiful, a violinist in love with her passion. A rebel born into a conservative family where belief was everything and honor shackled women in place. Then she met Ashkan.
He was 27, gorgeous, born to an Iranian father in Boston. A successful architect in the States who had returned to Iran to find his past. Then he met Mahtab.
A heart wrenching tale of love, family and hope, Sametipour’s Tehran Moonlight ultimately demonstrates the power of love and redemption in the midst of brutal oppression.


Running Away to EuropeRunning Away to Europe by Nicolette Johnston

In this soul-searching story, Nicolette explores England and France. But her adventure quickly turns into a comedy of errors, leaving her trip to resemble nothing like the dream vacation she envisioned. She leaves her passport on a bus in England, gets pickpocketed in Paris, has a fender bender on a narrow village road in the Loire Valley, and realizes she is truly alone when she can’t communicate in French. Despite blogging her adventures to the world, she internally struggles with which direction in life to go next. Vowing to keep incoming communication to a minimum during her escape; she wanders thru parks, gardens, and the French country hoping to find inner peace. Yet, she knows her biggest struggle still lies ahead. Does she return to John in Florida? The kindest man she’s ever known despite his shortcomings, and why can’t she forget Jett? The man she told herself never to surrender her heart to. But first, she must remember why she ran away in the first place. 

With her vacation…err, ‘run’ coming to an end, the thought of figuring out the next chapter is nearly paralyzing, but she knows she can’t avoid facing her future forever.


Dancing Over the HillDancing Over the Hill by Cathy Hopkins

When a boxset of Broadchurch is more appealing than having sex with your husband, then perhaps it’s time to hide the remote…

Cait and Matt have been married for 30 years. They are rock solid. An inspiration to others. Stuck together like glue. But Cait can’t shake off the feeling that something is missing. The whole world should be their oyster now that Matt has retired, so why does she feel shut up like a clam?

Things get more complicated when Tom Lewis, the man who broke her heart at university, makes a reappearance – still as charming as ever. Her friends, widow Lorna and newly-single Debs, have their own views of what Cait should do – but she isn’t in the mood to listen.

When Tom makes Cait an unexpected offer, Cait feels the pull of a different life. Has she got the guts to take the plunge, or does it take more courage to give her marriage another chance?


Year of Surprising Acts of KindnessThe Year of Surprising Acts of Kindness by Laura Kemp

Sometimes all it takes to make the world a better place is a small act of kindness…

When Ceri Price arrives in the small seaside village in West Wales, she only means to stay for a couple of nights – long enough to scatter her mother’s ashes, and then go back to her life as a successful make-up entrepreneur.

But a case of mistaken identities means she lands a job as the barmaid in the local pub, she unexpectedly finds friendship, and wonders if love might follow… But when the plans for a new housing estate put the local woodland under threat, she fears the way of life here could disappear.

Then mysterious acts of kindness start springing up around the village – a string of bunting adorns the streets, a new village signpost appears out of nowhere and someone provides paint to spruce up the houses on the seafront. Who is behind these acts of kindness and can they help in the race to save the village from the faceless developers…?

Welcome to the Village of Love. Where friendship flourishes and love blossoms…




It's Who We AreIt’s Who We Are by Christine Webber – published 16 Jan

Five friends in their fifties find themselves dealing with unforeseen upheaval as they uncover long-hidden and devastating family secrets. Meanwhile, the world around them seems to be spinning out of control. 
The events of It’s Who We Are take place between October 2016 and June 2017, against a backdrop of all the political uncertainty and change in the UK, Europe and America. 
The story is set in East Anglia, London and Ireland, and is about friendship, kindness and identity. Most importantly, it highlights how vital it is to reach for what enhances rather than depletes you.


Hidden PastsHidden Pasts by Clio Gray – published 18th Jan

Hestan Island, marooned in the Solway Firth, tethered to the mainland at low tide by a causeway called The Rack; Hestan home to two men quietly living out their lives, until a boy is almost crushed to death in their tiny copper mine, when their shared past begins to unravel. Over at Balcary House, Brogar Finn and Sholto McKay arrive, and soon become involved in the affairs on Hestan, which in turn leads them back through the bloody wars of Crimea and the lands of the Tartars. 

The third in the Scottish Mysteries, Hidden Pasts is host to a complex plot that explores the history of a little known part of Scotland, and explores how small, seemingly insignificant, events can echo down the years, with deadly consequence.


House of Hopes and DreamsHouse of Hopes and Dreams by Trisha Ashley published 8 March

When Carey Revell unexpectedly becomes the heir to Mossby, his family’s ancestral home, it’s rather a mixed blessing. The house is large but rundown and comes with a pair of resentful relatives who can’t be asked to leave. 
Still, newly dumped by his girlfriend and also from his job as a TV interior designer, Carey needs somewhere to lick his wounds. And Mossby would be perfect for a renovation show. He already knows someone who could restore the stained glass windows in the older part of the house…

Angel Arrowsmith has spent the last ten years happily working and living with her artist mentor and partner. But suddenly bereaved, she finds herself heartbroken, without a home or a livelihood. Life will never be the same again – until old friend Carey Revell comes to the rescue.

They move in to Mossby with high hopes. But the house has a secret at its heart: an old legend concerning one of the famous windows. Will all their dreams for happiness be shattered? Or can Carey and Angel find a way to make this house a home?


Happy Reading!!

#ThrowbackThursday – Humber Boy B by Ruth Dugdall @RuthDugdall #review

Throwback Thursday

Throwback Thursday is a weekly meme hosted by Renee at It’s Book Talk. Throwback Thursday was designed as an opportunity to share old favorites as well as older books in our TBR. As I started reviewing on Goodreads long before I started my blog, it seemed a great way of sharing my earlier reviews (which I hope have improved since the early days).

So this week I’m revisiting  Humber Boy B by Ruth Dugdall – first reviewed in February 2015.

Humber Boy B


Amazon Description

A blur in the sky, a brick no, a trainer, red falls to the water… There seems to be a scuffle… a hand grabbing at the dangling child. Then, with the awfulness of inevitability, the hanging child drops, gravity takes him.

A child is killed after falling from the Humber Bridge. Despite fleeing the scene, two young brothers are found guilty and sent to prison. Upon their release they are granted one privilege only, their anonymity.

Probation officer Cate Austin is responsible for Humber Boy B’s reintegration into society. But the general public’s anger is steadily growing, and those around her are wondering if the secret of his identity is one he actually deserves to keep.

Cate’s loyalty is challenged when she begins to discover the truth of the crime. She must ask herself if a child is capable of premeditated murder. Or is there a greater evil at play?

My Review

Then – Three young boys are on the walkway of the Humber Bridge, one of them climbs over the barrier and the younger of the other two pushes him to his death

Now – Eight years after he was imprisoned for murder at the age of 10, Humber Boy B is released back into society. He is given a new identity and a flat in Ipswich and now has to try to rehabilitate himself into society. Given that he has spent his formative years in young offenders institutions this was never going to be easy. It is however made harder by the creation of a Facebook group aimed at finding him. While the group was created by the murdered boy’s mother to seek an answer as to why he killed, another member has a more physical retribution in mind. The question is can Cate Austin his probation officer discover who Silent Friend is before they find Humber Boy B.

This is a thought-provoking book, which has echoes of the Bulger case in regard to the release of John Venables and the outcry that it aroused. Humber Boy B is viewed by society as an evil child killer, who will forever be remembered as the 10-year-old boy who pushed his friend from the bridge. Cate however tries to see him as the individual that he is and tries to understand why he did what he did.
The author worked as a Probation Officer for almost a decade in high security prisons in Suffolk, including work with children who have been convicted of murder, so she is well placed to write a book on a subject that undoubtedly divides opinion. In this instance I think she has done a good job. Her treatment of Humber Boy B does not try to mitigate the horror of what he did, or suggest that he wasn’t responsible. Instead it seeks so find out why he chose to take the action he did, and to try to understand what drove him rather than accepting the general opinion that he was evil. It is dealt with in a sensitive and balanced way and all the characters are believable and real.

The book progresses by alternating between then and now creating a mounting tension until the details of the murder are finally revealed. However the book has several layers – it’s not just about Humber Boy B, but about the lasting effects of his actions on others and how he is perceived. It is also about Cate and her life. While struggling to do her best against resistance even within her own department she also has demons of her own to face which act as a contrast to the main unfolding story. The book ends with a final twist that is as shocking as it is dramatic and was totally unforeseen.

This was a great read and I’m pleased to read that Cate is to make a re-appearance in Ruth’s next book.