Annie Reuben is an art restorer, working in a business with her father that is well known and respected for restoring historic items and architecture...moreAnnie Reuben is an art restorer, working in a business with her father that is well known and respected for restoring historic items and architecture to its former glory. Her latest project is a painting found in the basement of a hotel – a Trompe L’oeil depicting the life of a young girl. Annie becomes intrigued by the painting and the people in it and she wants to find out more about them. All she has to go on are a couple of names and where the painting was found but she decides to start digging, starting with the paddleboat that appears in a portion of the painting.
In 1867, a young girl is found in a barrel on the Murray River. Rescued by the captain of a paddleboat, he takes the young girl home to his wife, knowing that his wife will take care of her. About eight or so, the young girl has no idea what her name is and so she is named Alice. What most people don’t know is that Alice has a gift – she can see colours around people and in some cases, the colours tell her something, like impending doom. Sometimes she finds it hard to keep quiet about her gift which leads to people becoming wary and suspicious of her, believing that she brings bad luck. After it happens yet again and she loses someone very dear to her, Alice runs away with a friend named Rosey to try their luck on the goldfields. They don’t end up panning for gold but they do join a troupe of entertainers, setting in motion the course of events that will lead to the painting being completed as Alice attempts to find her history…and escape the man in the black coat who has always pursued her.
As Annie becomes more and more involved in the painting, she finds herself seeing the same man in the black coat. Who is he and what does he want? If she discovers his connection then maybe she can give him some peace and satisfy her curiosity about the girls in the painting and her connection to it.
I love a good history/contemporary dual narrative which was why I requested this book even though I was a bit dubious about Alice’s ‘gift’. I’m pretty skeptical about a lot of things like that and so when it began unfolding into the story, I was hoping that I would find it easy to believe and accept it and I’m pleased to say that I did. Although it’s a very strong part of the story, it doesn’t totally dominate. Both the contemporary and the historical parts of this book are well constructed and written and I was able to switch back and forth between them easily without being overly concerned about getting back to one part of the story or the other. That balance can be hard to achieve, to run two stories side by side giving equal attention to both and not having one of them be far too dominant for the reader’s attention.
In the present day, Annie is a single mother working in her father’s restoration business. They apply many crafts in order to maintain or restore historical artifacts and architecture but Annie’s current work is a painting, a Trompe L’oeil, which is a kind of painting that creates an optical illusion and looks three dimensional. It has fallen into a state of extreme disrepair from being shut up in a basement of a condemned building for many, many years and Annie has to examine it and decide what she will do to repair it. She becomes so fascinated with the characters in the painting and the story that she believes it’s trying to tell her that she immediately sets out to find more about them. This is how Annie and her father work – they take on expensive projects and put all their focus and energy into them because it’s their passion. They could make more money taking on more jobs that are less interesting and don’t require so much work but that simply isn’t the way Annie is wired. She throws herself into things, whole heartedly and perhaps even obsessively and although it’s admirable, it means that their business is not exactly thriving any longer and this stress is placing a strain on her father’s health. Annie knows that he wants her to take over soon but she’s not exactly sure she’s ready for that – she likes being able to lose herself in projects that interest her. However she also has her young daughter to think of as well – her responsibilities mean she might have to choose between a well paying job far away and the chance of future personal happiness locally.
In the historical setting, Alice is a foundling that possesses a sort of Sight and also a variation of synesthesia where she sees colours swirling around people. Different colours mean different things and when Alice sometimes tries to warn people they end up regarding her with fear and suspicion. She spends a large part of her young life on the run with her friend Rosey, who has her own past that she’s running from too. Both of them kind of lurch from one disaster to the next as they attempt to outrun a figure that terrifies Alice, a man in a black coat that she believes is hunting her down. Finally for some peace, Alice realises that she needs to find out about her past before she was discovered and try and discover who the man in the black coat really is and why he causes such conflicted feelings inside of her.
I really enjoyed this book – towards the end I found myself frantically turning pages, racing through the story to find out more about Alice’s past and exactly what the story was with the man in the black coat and his motivations and wondering why Annie had seen him as well in the present day. The more I got into the story, the more invested I was, in both the historical and the contemporary parts.(less)
Emily is running away from her life. She’s leaving behind her home, her husband, her family – everything. She becomes a new person with a new name and...moreEmily is running away from her life. She’s leaving behind her home, her husband, her family – everything. She becomes a new person with a new name and no attachments, commitments or responsibilities. She finds a place to stay in a share house in north London and a job temping. She makes a friend in Angel, another woman in the share house and she steadfastly refuses to think about her old life, how her husband must be feeling and more importantly, the tragedy that led to her fleeing without a word.
Now known as Cat, she moves in entirely different circles to her former life. With Angel she finds herself drawn into a heading world of shopping and partying and as she moves up the chain in her new found job, she needs a little more recreational help to get her through the day. Always looming, getting ever closer is the anniversary of the day her life splintered apart, changed forever and even this new Cat hasn’t worked out quite how to cope with it yet.
Eventually Cat has spiraled down so far, some of it not of her own fault but all that is left is the bottom and it allows all she has run from to come looking for her. Her secret will be out and she will have to face the things she ran from head on and see where there is left for her.
Emily Coleman had everything going for her. She was married to a wonderful man named Ben whom she loved very much and who loved her. They had a beautiful baby boy and Emily had just found out that she was expecting again. And then something happened that made Emily walk out, away from her life without a word. From there she is lucky to find somewhere to stay although it’s a world away from her former home – a share house where everything that isn’t the kitchen or the bathroom is a bedroom, rented out. The conditions are somewhat less than ideal but she immediately makes changes to make the room more comfortable and is out looking for a job, despite the fact that her CV is totally made up. She can’t go back into the field she was working in before – it would be far too easy for her to be discovered that way.
The narrative flashes back and forth with Emily/Cat in the present day, fleeing her life and making a new one interspersed with her memories of the ‘before’ (ie before the terrible thing happened). We see how she met her husband, get glimpses of their courtship and wedding and peek in as they make their life together in a new house. There’s also a lot devoted to Emily’s family, which is somewhat troubled. Emily has a twin sister who has had some difficulties and her parents have had issues in their marriage too. The back story is carefully and meticulously revealed but with deceptions as well. Many times I thought that I had worked out what had happened to send Emily running but I was wrong every single time. We are also at times privy to her husband Ben’s thoughts as well and how he has coped since she left.
For a lot of this story, I was utterly engrossed and couldn’t wait for the big reveal so that I’d finally know what had happened to tear her apart so much and led to her decision to turn her back on everything and attempt to start over again in such a way. However I do feel like it began to lose its way a little, when Emily/Cat ends up by accident in this new career and begins partying and meeting men who fall in love with her or want to be with her. I can understand why she’d turn to some of the methods she did – it enables her to keep memories at bay and keeps her functioning, or at least appearing to. However what really interested me was Emily’s state of mind and the circumstances surrounding what caused her to leave and some of the events late in the book seemed to distract from that and edge a bit into far-fetched territory. I’m not sure why the book needed such a dramatic episode to enable her husband to locate her. I also thought the events of the book would’ve had more of an affect on her state of mind but that seemed to be very much glossed over – almost as if it happened to someone else and she wasn’t there. Perhaps that was a coping method but it did come off as quite cold and callous and had the effect of alienating me from Emily at a time when my sympathy for her should’ve been at its peak. Also the last part of the book is told in fits and starts that skip ahead in time and it has the feel of being a bit disjointed.
Despite that, One Step Too Far is a compelling story of what does it take to push a woman who seemingly had everything to the edge and make her want to leave it all behind. I really enjoyed the guesswork, trying to figure out what had happened – I didn’t mind being wrong. In fact I think being wrong is good because it means the author did her job in keeping it a nicely shrouded mystery. Although she seemed remote at times, Emily was someone I wanted to get the help she needed and resolve her feelings over what had happened and try and find some sort of happiness again. What she had in her new life as ‘Cat’ wasn’t happiness. It was existing, and at times, poorly. But I understood her motivations and what drove her to leave in the end and I think that came across well.(less)
Dr Beth Harding has made yet another decision that sets her apart from her family, one that she knows they’ll question, especially her mother. She fee...moreDr Beth Harding has made yet another decision that sets her apart from her family, one that she knows they’ll question, especially her mother. She feels the need to get away from it all, go somewhere where all of the pressure to fit in and expectations on her behaviour are gone. So she accepts a job as a locum at Iron Junction, a mining community in the Pilbara. It’s a long way from Manly in Sydney and that’s exactly what she wants.
The mine is growing rapidly and it seems that the added pressures on the workers to meet targets is leading to some injuries, some of which are worsening unnecessarily because the injured patients aren’t taking the time off required to rest and recuperate. Beth is concerned about what’s going on and the fact that she’s expected to just ignore these injuries and tell the workers that they are fine to return to duty. When she starts making noises and expressing her concerns about what’s happening, she finds herself shut down with threats of negative reports back to the agency that got her the job.
Will Walker was born and raised on a cattle farm but that wasn’t the life for him – he’s left that to his father and his brother and instead works on the mines as an engineer. Sent to Iron Junction, Will finds himself rescuing Beth when she gets a flat battery and from there the two fall into an easy friendship that Will would like to be more but Beth’s recent break up keeps him firmly in the friends camp…for now. The two spend plenty of time together and share some of their concerns about what is going on. For Will, Beth is an unexpected bonus in the FIFO life, someone who is much more than just a catch up fitted in between shifts. But Will is still haunted by something in his past, believing himself not worthy of a relationship with someone like Beth and the decisions he makes have far-reaching consequences as they separate and come together again in a dangerous storm. Can Will ever put the past behind him and move on? And will Beth accept him and everything that he has in his past and give happiness another chance?
Iron Junction is Charlotte Nash’s second novel and I didn’t realise until I began reading it that it was linked somewhat to her first novel, Ryder’s Ridge which I haven’t read. Our hero in this novel is the brother of the hero in Ryder’s Ridge and the characters get a mention occasionally and appear towards the end. However I think that this novel works well if you haven’t read Ryder’s Ridge although I will be tracking it down soon because I enjoyed this and think that I’ll like Ryder’s Ridge equally as much.
I’ve read a few books set in the Pilbara in the last couple of years and I find the setting fascinating. I was born on the east coast and I’ve never been to Perth, much less some of the more remote areas of WA and I find them so interesting to read about, especially the fabulous descriptions. This one is rife with depiction of the local area, seen through the eyes of both Beth, who is a budding photographer and Caitlin, a young Aboriginal girl who is also a photographer. Caitlin takes wonderful photos and Beth is learning to do so as well, using an old SLR camera that belonged to her father. I love taking photos myself (although am very much an amateur) so I enjoyed what extra that added to the story and Beth’s character.
I really appreciated the way Nash developed the romance between Will and Beth. Both characters have some issues stemming from their past – Beth from her upbringing, where she’s never quite fitted in and always been made to feel self-conscious and Will from an incident many years ago that may be coming back to haunt him here in the present. Because of her recent break-up, Beth wants to maintain a friendship with Will and so they are first, friends. And then when Beth decides to take the plunge and go to the next level, Will gets cold feet, still troubled by his past. It sets them back in a very realistic fashion and loved the natural progression of their relationship from beginning to end. I also loved Will’s ability to see Beth’s mother very clearly and the fact that he had her back 100%. I would’ve loved to see some action from Beth about her father after what she discovered late in the book but I do understand that making a decision like that would take some time. I’d also love to see a book about Daniella’s brother Captain Bell in the future. He’s only a very minor character in this one but I liked him and think he’d make a great focus for a future book.
Iron Junction is a very enjoyable rural romance with lots of other elements as well. The story revolving around the mine and the meeting and exceeding of productivity felt very relevant. I haven’t worked on mines obviously but I can imagine that at times, there is pressure to get things done, to keep productivity as high as possible, perhaps not to the level that is in this story but it made for a very good discussion point. I found the inclusion of Caitlin’s story a really interesting touch – actually I’d like to hope she might get her own story one day too!(less)
Thirteen years ago, Frankie, Jack and Kate were almost inseparable. Frankie and Jack had been friends since they were both tiny – Frankie’s mother use...moreThirteen years ago, Frankie, Jack and Kate were almost inseparable. Frankie and Jack had been friends since they were both tiny – Frankie’s mother used to babysit Jack after his mother went back to work. They went through school together like best friends although somewhere along the way, things became a little different.
And then came Kate.
Kate was new to the school when they were about 16 and it was Frankie she made a beeline for and the two of them became best friends. Shortly after, Jack the jock and Kate, beautiful Kate, became an item and Frankie was in the middle of a very delicate juggling act. Kate was needy, often difficult but the two of them were as close as sisters, even though Kate occasionally would feel left out of Frankie and Jack’s closeness. And Kate hated feeling left out.
When they finished school, they went camping on a ‘schoolies’ holiday and Kate disappeared after Jack tired of her drama and broke up with her, determined to move on with Frankie, the one he should’ve been with. However nothing was ever the same after Kate’s disappearance – Jack was briefly a suspect and then he moved away to escape the stares and the whispers.
Now Frankie is nearly 30, unmarried and not connected to anyone when Jack buys the property behind hers. All of a sudden, everything Frankie has been suppressing – guilt, pain and so much more comes rushing to the surface. She and Jack have always been better together but there are complications. Jack has a ready-made family but as always, the two of them are drawn together. They want to be around each other but they still have so much unfinished business. In order to move on, move forward either together or separate, they have to know what happened to Kate all of those years ago.
Losing Kate is the sort of story that has a little bit of everything. On one hand, it’s a love story – Frankie (short for Francesca) and Jack have known each other since they were tiny. They grew up together, they were best friends. Somewhere along the way they started to see each other as more than friends but were reluctant (especially Frankie) to take that next step for fear of ruining the amazing friendship they’d spent so many years cultivating. Enter Kate, new girl at school. Beautiful, a bit crazy and she slips straight in, becoming best friends with Frankie and Jack’s girlfriend.
It’s also a mystery as thirteen years after Kate disappears, Jack pops back into her life. This brings back all of the feelings she’s crammed to the back of her mind right to front and center and she finds herself desperate to know what really happened to Kate. All Frankie knows is that Kate ran away from Jack on the beach after Jack broke up with her and was basically never seen again. Why did she feel the need to run when there was really no where safe to go? Was it an accident? Did she meet with someone who hurt her? And was what Kate told Frankie just prior to her disappearing really true? And if so, it means Jack lied to her. And if he lied to her about that, even all of those years ago, then she knows that the two of them have no future together because she’ll never be able to trust her. It’s important for Frankie to know the truth.
I think that most people, well most teenage girls have had a friend like Kate. Someone that you click with, who is fun and amazing when they’re happy but who can also be difficult and moody and make you feel like you’ve done them so wrong when really you have no clue what it is you’re supposed to have done. Kaden really captures this with Frankie and Kate, perfectly balancing the fact that Frankie loves Kate, enjoys her company and being friends with the effortlessly cool girl, at the time unaware of the fact that Kate does have some underlying issues that an adult picks up on but a teenager would be oblivious to at the time. Likewise the triangle is well done, which is a difficult thing to achieve. The scenes in the past are where this book shines, navigating the difficult teenage relationships with all their complicated layers and for Frankie, trying to achieve that balance where she gets to both keep Kate as a best friend and get to be with the person she wants to be with, who clearly wants her as well. I’m about the same age as Francesca, so her teenage memories of music etc are my teenage memories of music. It was a great way to connect with Frankie and her life.
In the present, nothing is easy. Jack has a partner named Sara and he deliberately hides his connection to Frankie from her for fear of raising her suspicion. It seems that Jack has a predisposition to picking women who are self-destructive and often difficult which made me wonder if he was trying to make up for what happened to Kate (or if I was just totally overthinking it and Sara was difficult because it made it easier for the reader to dislike her and want Jack and Frankie to have their chance!). Jack and Frankie have so much to work out, half truths, finding the real from the not real and the messy situation regarding Jack’s home life and it was interesting to watch them really work at it, sometimes making mistakes and taking a step backwards before they could go forwards.
A great debut and an author to watch in the future.(less)
Anne has had a bad day – her flatmate who owed her money has absconded without paying it back and also taking most of their shared apartment’s furnitu...moreAnne has had a bad day – her flatmate who owed her money has absconded without paying it back and also taking most of their shared apartment’s furniture. This also leaves Anne with rent that she most likely cannot pay given a lot of her money goes toward supporting her younger sister through college. Her friend Lauren who lives in the apartment next door urges Anne to forget her worries for a night and come with Lauren and her boyfriend Nate to Nate’s sister’s party. Nate’s sister happens to be Evelyn, who sensationally married the guitarist of rock band Stage Dive recently. Anne knows her only to say hello to but she allows herself to be persuaded by Lauren to go to the party.
There she meets Mal Ericson, the drummer and former pin up on Anne’s wall and her teenage crush/obsession. Mal overhears a conversation Anne has on the phone and picks up that she’s in a pretty desperate situation and he thinks they might be able to help each other out. Mal needs a squeaky clean girlfriend for a little while, someone who will make his parent’s happy and keep the press off his back and he thinks that he and Anne can come to an arrangement. He’ll help her out financially if she’ll pose as his girlfriend. Anne is exactly the sort of person that Mal thinks is right for the job.
But pretending to be the girlfriend of a sexy rock God comes with a danger. Anne isn’t sure she can do this without it ending badly. Or might she be what Mal is really looking for, not just something to improve his image?
When I read the first Stage Dive novel Lick last year, I couldn’t praise it enough. I recommended it to plenty of other bloggers, I included it in my top 10 favourite novels of the year. It was a great book – fantastic chemistry, a delicate handling of an instant relationship and the writing was virtually flawless. Naturally Play became one of my most anticipated books for 2014 and I was so excited when I saw the cover and when I nabbed a copy I started it almost right away.
It is so, so unfortunate that this book didn’t work for me. Mal is a character who appears in Lick and I enjoyed his brief scenes and thought that his book would be a total hit with me but I have to say, his character in this novel….I just couldn’t warm to him at all. From the first scene he appears in, he’s smarmy, a bit weird and then launches into some kind of ADHD man-child personality that I found utterly irritating and alienating. Moving unannounced into someone’s apartment is kind of stalkerish, whether you’re a famous rock star or not. I tried to imagine if I suddenly same home in my early 20′s and found Joey Jordison living in my apartment and quite frankly the idea mostly creeped me out. I think that this could’ve been worked around had Mal not seemed so bi-polar all the time. He’s either extremely up, where he talks and bounces and carries on like a child or he’s down in the dumps drinking Jack and escaping to play drums for hours. And you know from the get-go that Mal has some sort of emotional pain going on that he’s trying to deal with and perhaps is the reason for his wildly swinging personality but the reveal is really ineffectual and lacks the dramatic impact that it should. Everything about Mal’s character should fall into place after that reveal but it doesn’t. It still just ends up coming off as really strange and almost every scene with him being “up Mal” I found myself skimming because he was obnoxious.
In Lick, the chemistry absolutely was in danger of setting my kindle on fire and the sexually charged relationship between David and Evelyn was amazing. Mal and Anne have all the chemistry of two wet socks for me and some of the scenes (in particular the one where Mal has a conversation with Anne’s clitoris) come off as cringe worthy in my mind, rather than hilarious. I’m well aware that after a casual glance at Goodreads, I’m significantly in the minority here and I’m also much more drawn to angsty romance rather than the humorous variety and I expected a much more sexually charged story. There were a few moments that made me giggle but there weren’t many. Anne was quite uptight and one of those characters that sacrifices everything, even her own ability to live comfortably, in order to support another member of her family. I felt like that because of this, she wasn’t particularly defined as a character. She worked in a bookshop and her job sounded pretty cool but a lot of it revolves around a kind of love triangle story with a person she works with that really adds little to the story.
To be honest, the best parts of this book were the glimpses we got of David and Evelyn and the groundwork done for the next Stage Dive book, Lead which is singer Jimmy’s story and looks as though it could be quite interesting – and angsty! Perhaps quite a lot more up my alley. I am definitely still going to read the next two books because I loved Lick so much. I’m hoping that the next stories are more to my liking than this one, which I am very sad to say, was just not the sort of story I enjoy.(less)
Damaris Chance has an unhappy past that has led her to swear off ever wanting to be married. She sees no gain for a woman in marriage – the man holds...moreDamaris Chance has an unhappy past that has led her to swear off ever wanting to be married. She sees no gain for a woman in marriage – the man holds all the power and few matches are made for the right reasons where things turn out happily for all involved, such as her sister Abby’s marriage to Max, Lord Davenham. Damaris is certain that sort of happiness doesn’t await her in her future and she prefers to plan to gain her independence so that she need never be beholden to a man.
Her guardian Lady Beatrice Davenham knows and understands this. However she still wants Damaris to have the chance to have a Season, purely just for fun. To enjoy dressing up, going to balls and events and having the innocent and harmless attention of eligible young men. She doesn’t have to commit to any of them, or feel the need to secure an offer. She just wants Damaris to enjoy herself, probably because it seems unlikely that Damaris has ever had much enjoyment in her young life.
With Max and Abby away on their honeymoon, Max has left his closest friend, Freddy Monkton-Coombes in charge, asking him to keep an eye on Lady Beatrice and the remaining sisters, Damaris, Daisy and Jane. Aware that his own mother is pressuring him to marry and provide the entailed estate with the obligatory heir and spare, Freddy spends most of his time avoiding ‘muffins’ – young and eligible women who definitely do want to marry and secure an offer. Preferably his. In Damaris, who is as reluctant to wed as he, Freddy sees opportunity. And all he has to do is sweeten the deal so that Damaris sees it too.
The Winter Bride is the second in the Chance Sisters series, about four girls who have come together to survive against the odds thrown at them. Damaris spent some time in China but it’s something that she never really talks about – especially how she got from China back to England. After reading The Autumn Bride, which was Abby’s story, Damaris was definitely the sister I was most interested in. Her story was so interesting and I was thrilled when I realised hers would be the second story and I wouldn’t have to wait that long to find out more about her.
Damaris appreciates her sisters and the fact that Lady Beatrice has taken them in and that there’ll always be a home for her. However she has made up her mind that she doesn’t want to get married and her goal is independence. She’s willing to do things in order to make this happen, to work hard, something eligible ladies do not do. But since Damaris doesn’t want to attract men, she’s not worried about people will think about her – although she doesn’t want to negatively impact on her sisters either. She finds herself being chaperoned by Freddy Monkton-Coombes, who feels obligated to take care of her and make sure nothing happens in Max’s absence. Freddy feels that he has the solution for both of them and it is perfect.
I was so-so on Freddy in The Autumn Bride but his character is explored so well in this book that I was an unabashed fan by the end. His playboy, man-about-town-running-away-from-the-muffins persona hides a painful childhood and past. He has as little interest in marrying as Damaris does and the two of them hammer out a deal that seems them feigning an engagement. However, the more time they spend together, the more they get to know each other – and that means the real Freddy, not just the man he projects in town. Damaris learns everything of his childhood and she is driven to protect and defend him when it seems he cannot or will not do it himself. In return, Freddy accepts everything he learns about Damaris, even her terrible secret that she is so ashamed of, that makes her think she isn’t worthy for him to really marry. She thinks that Freddy, who tells her he wants to make their faux betrothal real, will run a mile when he learns what she did.
This is such a great story of acceptance of people for who and what they are and have been through. Freddy is so much more than just meets the eye – he’s really rather progressive really and his acceptance and defence of Damaris and what she was forced to do is amazing. It’s the kind of thing you cheer on when you read. Given this is a historical where certain things are expected of women, especially women men want to marry and there’s a high double standard relating to behaviour, it’s refreshing to see a character so incredibly accepting and concerned with the right things in the tale. Freddy has so many hidden depths – he’s still fun and dashing and still fleeing from muffins, but he’s also a responsible adult who has built a fortune basically on his own, and who deals with the ostracism and blame that his parents heap upon him. The two of them together are supportive and they make each other stronger – Freddy believes in Damaris’s goodness and that in her past, she took the only option available to her. Damaris believes in Freddy’s strength and the right he has to assume his family position and that he’s fully capable of doing so. I wasn’t too sure before I read this if they would make a strong couple but Gracie has made them better with each other in remarkable ways.
Twenty-three years ago, Frieda Klein left the small coastal town where she grew up. She has never been back. Instead she has forged her own life in Lo...moreTwenty-three years ago, Frieda Klein left the small coastal town where she grew up. She has never been back. Instead she has forged her own life in London, working as a psychoanalyst and recently, getting a little attention for her work on several police cases. Frieda has never felt any desire to return to where she came from, in fact it’s the last thing she wants to do. However when an old school acquaintance looks her up, asking if Frieda will help her teenage daughter, she agrees to see her, albeit reluctantly.
What Becky, the teenage girl has to say tells Frieda several things. Firstly, this isn’t just a girl looking for attention, or going through some harmless teenage angst. She has had a real and terrible thing happen to her and it seems that no one really believes her and that there’s nothing she can do about it. Secondly it brings back a storm of memories for Frieda, of a time when she was sixteen and a secret she has buried for the past twenty-three years and tells Frieda that it’s time to do something about what happened.
There’s nothing else Frieda can do except return to her hometown and confront her secrets head on. She has to find out what happened that night and she’s willing to do anything and speak to anyone in order to do so. People are dying because of this secret, because no one believed her all those years ago. Frieda needs to find answers and the killer before they can strike again and keep tormenting innocent young girls.
Thursday’s Children is the fourth novel in the Frieda Klein psychological suspense series co-written by husband and wife team Nicci Gerard and Sean French. Given the titles of the novels, which all feature a day of the week, I guessed we’d be limited in the amount of novels this series would include. I found an old article saying there is expected to be 8 – one named for each day of the week and then a final novel to “bring resolution”.
There’s no denying that Frieda is a bit of an odd character. She’s a loner who prefers long walks around London at night to socialising although over the last four books we’ve seen people shoehorn themselves into her lives: Josef, the Ukrainian builder, Sasha a woman who came to her as a patient being taken advantage of by her therapist, DCI Karlsson who first requested her help and the people she has time for, her niece Chloe and Chloe’s often incapable mother Olivia and Reuben, Frieda’s former supervisor and analyst. There’s also her on/off lover Sandy who disappears and reappears regularly depending on whether or not Frieda is comfortable with him at any given time. This book provides perhaps the most development of their relationship although that development is mostly puzzling.
In this novel the reader learns perhaps more about Frieda than in any of the other books in terms of her past. Frieda has rarely, if ever spoken of her past and her family but a lot of her background is constructed here, including her teenage life with her group of friends, her devastation over her father and her disconnection with her mother. It sort of amazes me the way Frieda just strolled back into her hometown and started talking to people about a night some twenty-three years ago like it was yesterday and everyone was supposed to remember exactly what happened and what they were doing. Obviously some people didn’t react too well to her turning up and poking around, unsure exactly why she was doing it and what on earth she was doing there after so long. Frieda may inspire people’s loyalty now, in the present, but there are some definite mixed feelings towards her in her hometown.
As always, I enjoyed reading about the way Frieda went about getting her information. She’s pretty much like a dog with a bone – she doesn’t let go and she keeps pushing, keeps demanding information until she gets it. She’s not intimidated when people don’t want to see her, or blame her for something horrible, she keeps turning up and keeps asking questions. I didn’t really pick the offender in this one either – I have to admit when Frieda made the connection and announced who it was I went “What?!” in my head because they weren’t someone who had registered on my radar. However, Josef guessed it easily which obviously reinforces how bad I am at picking the culprit in these types of books.
Since the beginning now there’s been an unsolved issue running through these books – sometimes it’s a bit on the backburner, sometimes it’s more front and center. Given the limited amount of books that’s going to be in this series, I can guess that perhaps it’s all heading for a final showdown to resolve this unfinished issues that began in Blue Monday. Frieda and so far Karlsson are I think the only two people who know that there is a dangerous man on the loose, everyone else believes that he is dead. The powers that be who could reopen the case are unwilling to listen to Frieda, having already had huge problems with her and her methods in previous books and to be honest, I can understand how that would be the case. She does tend to tread on a lot of toes and is seemingly uncaring about that. When she’s on a mission, she’s an unstoppable force until she gets her answers.
Another solid installment and it only builds the anticipation for what is going to happen in the future.(less)
Darcy Fletcher is back in the town she grew up in after a stint in Sydney where she learned to be a chef and even had her own restaurant. However she’...moreDarcy Fletcher is back in the town she grew up in after a stint in Sydney where she learned to be a chef and even had her own restaurant. However she’s returned to Banksia Cove, near Bundaberg, for family reasons and is currently working hard to fulfill her dream again of opening her own place. She has chosen the old whaling station as her location and everything is moving along nicely. Darcy also volunteers with the marine rescue team and is called out by the local police officer (and her childhood friend) Noah to help in a storm. A yacht has capsized and is perilously close to smashing itself to smithereens on the rocks. Noah, Darcy and the captain of the rescue boat are an undermanned team working to rescue the stricken yacht’s passenger before he too, ends up on the rocks.
Darcy manages to pull the injured man to safety but he brings only questions and no answers. He can’t remember his name, where he comes from or what he was doing out there. He doesn’t even know if the boat was his. Noah does some digging, his instincts telling him that something about this passenger is a little off. He’s definitely got some secrets and they could possibly be very dark ones. Noah doesn’t want Darcy in danger, especially as she’s just offered her spare room to the stranger while he recuperates from his injuries and tries to get his memory back.
It isn’t long before the stranger’s dark past comes looking for him in the small town. He and Darcy are forced to flee, holing up inside the old whaling station where the secrets start to spill out. Darcy is surprised to find that her stranger has a connection to her own family and that his secrets are set to bring down someone very close to her. He knows more than he’s letting on and he wants to protect her but Darcy doesn’t want protecting. She wants to know what he knows. She wants to know what everyone’s been keeping from her, including the man she has known and loved all these years.
I have been a huge fan of Australian romantic suspense author Helene Young since I read her first novel Wings Of Fear. I don’t think there’s a better romantic suspense writer out there at the moment. All of her stories are perfectly crafted, well written and her settings and characters suck me in. It would seem that many out there would agree with me, given the amount of awards Young is receiving including 2 at the Australian Romance Readers Association awards that took place just last weekend.
This book is everything I’ve come to expect from Young as an author. There’s a lot going on but the plot never feels crowded or rushed. We get enough of Darcy’s backstory to get to know her without it all feeling like infodump. She had a difficult childhood and she still has issues, particularly with her father, a now famous rugby league coach who has always made her feel inferior for not being the son he wanted. He now has a new family and lives in Sydney, high on the fame of coaching a successful team. Darcy has always been ignorant about her father’s methods but his world is about to collide with that of the mysterious stranger that Darcy pulled out of the ocean and soon she will be missing none of the pieces.
The suspense is always the predominant plot in this novel but that doesn’t mean the romance gets neglected – it’s just more understated, more of a quiet hum in the background. Noah, the local police officer and Darcy have known each other since they were small children. They both have feelings for the other and have done, for years but there’s a lot of water flowing under their bridge and both of them are suffering from misconceptions about the other’s feelings, especially relating to certain issues in both of their pasts. Darcy also finds herself drawn to the man she rescues, who is handsome and mysterious and it’s quite clear that he also finds himself drawn to her as well. It’s a deftly done complication that doesn’t take up too much page space. Previously Helene Young has introduced characters that later get their own story and I do wonder if we’ll see our mysterious stranger again! I hope so. There’s no denying that I think Noah and Darcy belong together, and I loved the quiet steadiness of the feelings they had for each other that they kept secret, that they both struggled not to allow to affect their strong friendship. Noah in particular struggled with this, determined to remain Darcy’s friend even if she could never return the feelings he had for her. He was definitely more accepting of his feelings for her, Darcy it seemed put them right to the back of her mind until all the drama was stirred up and they were forced into some precarious situations that make them either unable or unwilling to continue to hide their feelings.
There are some beautiful relationships in this book, besides the one that Young constructs between Noah and Darcy. I think probably the most notable one is Darcy and Rosie, a local Aboriginal woman who took a lonely child Darcy under her wing and showed her true love and friendship. Rosie is also an important Elder in her tribe and she does her best to make sure the youngsters are kept in line, or punished when they stray from it. Rosie and Darcy have a truly lovely rapport and you can see just how important Darcy has found the love Rosie gave her unconditionally and how much she drew strength from it as a person. Rosie was always there for her, even when other people in her life were letting her down, even when Darcy was letting herself down. The more dysfunctional relationships, including that of Darcy and her father are also well portrayed, with every interaction underlining Darcy’s hurt and rejection from a man who seems incapable of truly feeling empathy.
Another truly stellar novel from the go-to author for Australian romantic suspense.(less)
After she walked in on her boyfriend with another woman, Devon Reid vows to change her life. She quits her job so that she doesn’t have to see her for...moreAfter she walked in on her boyfriend with another woman, Devon Reid vows to change her life. She quits her job so that she doesn’t have to see her former boyfriend anymore and she finds herself retreating to a small California town she has visited on vacation before. There, in the local restaurant she meets a man who incinerates her with a single look.
After a brief interaction, he hands her a business card and tells her that if she needs a job, she will find one there. Devon fronts up to Phyrefly Aviation for an interview and is placed in the accounting section. It isn’t until after she’s given a job that she realises the mysterious man from the restaurant is Zach St Brenton, owner and CEO of Phyrefly. A billionaire going places, Devon knows that Zach is hopelessly out of her league. That doesn’t stop her from wanting him though. And it doesn’t seem to stop him from wanting her either.
But Zach’s needs are different to what Devon is accustomed to. Zach isn’t satisfied by vanilla sex and demands his lovers give up full control to him. Devon isn’t sure she likes being told what to do, or surrendering her decisions to Zach, but she doesn’t want to lose him either. Even though they both want different things and she’s pretty sure only heartbreak will await her at the end, she decides to give herself fully to him and let him guide her experiences. And maybe, just maybe, she might be enough for him to want to stay.
When I first started reading this book, I was confused. I knew I’d read the first chapter before and I couldn’t figure out how given it’s a new novel that’s only just being published (I think it was published elsewhere, perhaps online or eBook, in several parts but I knew I wouldn’t have read it there). Finally I figured out that it was a sneak peak in a copy of another Lauren Jameson novel I read recently. The beginning of this novel is very promising – Devon is buying herself some lingerie in an expensive store in the hope that her boyfriend might sleep with her in a position other than the boring missionary. When in the store she hears something about him that trips her suspicion and she goes to his place, only to find him getting busy with someone else, who wears expensive lingerie from the same store – only in a much smaller size than Devon.
After she has fled, Devon crosses paths with Zach St Brenton, an undeniably attractive and rich man who unleashes a little of the inner bad girl in Devon. She wants to experiment with him but Zach runs hot and cold, tracking her down and pushing her away before finally admitting that he wants her but he isn’t sure she’d be into what he desires. He wants a submissive, someone who will hand him complete control. Zach desires to always be in control.
I’ve read several of these types of books recently and they all hinge around the Dom knowing that the woman wants to submit to him fully deep down, even if they don’t know it themselves yet. I don’t really know about this – it doesn’t really sit right with me because I thought that BDSM was about a mutual exploration of fantasy with the Dom desiring to control and the submissive keen to explore their willingness to give up that control. Expecting someone to give that up when they don’t even know they want to sounds a little backwards to me. And the thing that concerned me in this novel is that Devon, once she decides to do what Zach wants, has a safe word. Which is fine, it’s good. However, there are a few times in the novel when she clearly feels like she might want to use it but doesn’t because she knows she’ll never see Zach again if she does. That is not the right reason not to use your safe word! That bothers me because I’m not sure it’s what a safe, consensual BDSM relationship should be about if there is a safeword involved. I know there are couples out there who choose not to have one – the submissive gives up full control to the Dom, trusting them to know their limits and push them only as far as they can go, pain and pleasure wise. However if there is a safeword then a sub shouldn’t feel like they can’t use it for fear that the Dom will spurn them and run away. A Dom should guide a sub through all of the facets of the relationship, including giving them breathing space and time to regroup if they need it. Especially when they’re totally new to everything and didn’t come into the relationship with a desire to actively submit. They should also be able to refuse an act, should they not feel comfortable. It doesn’t mean they’ll never want to do it again. However I get the feeling that some think this is ‘topping from the bottom’ when really, all it does is make a safeword useless and ineffective. I do wish that these novels would portray the message that sometimes, it’s okay to feel overwhelmed and unsure. And to say no, if that’s how you feel. And not be scared that the guy will leave you because you questioned his judgement.
Apart from that issue (which I do admit, is kind of a big one for me) the rest of the book was okay. There’s a decent amount of chemistry between the characters and I liked Devon’s backstory but I felt that her history could have been better explored. Zach is damaged, as so many of them are but I didn’t predict what had caused it and it was certainly different to what I’d read before. I also understood how that event might’ve led to him becoming the way he was, but like Devon, I do feel like more of the book could’ve been devoted to exploring this. A bit less sex and a bit more depth and I would’ve really enjoyed this. I like a well-written sex scene but not at the expense of character and plot development. This isn’t a long book (or series of short interludes) and it could definitely have carried a bit more of the heavier stuff to really flesh it out.(less)
Jane Lockhart has a whole pile of rejections from publishers. In fact she has them pinned up on the wall and refers to it as her Board of Pain. Howeve...moreJane Lockhart has a whole pile of rejections from publishers. In fact she has them pinned up on the wall and refers to it as her Board of Pain. However she’s not giving up – although she’s exhausted most of the publishers and agents, she prints yet another copy of her manuscript and takes it to Tristesse Books, a local publisher in Glasgow. It’s owned and run by a Frenchman named Tom Duval who is famous for falling out with authors he’s published. And several that he hasn’t.
Despite what he sees is a terrible title, Tom sees potential in Jane’s manuscript and he decides to publish it. It’s exactly the sort of work he’s been looking for and he pushes her hard during edits, ripping apart her work and stitching it back together again. All of that time spent together is getting to the both of them and before the edit is done they’re blurring the lines between business and pleasure.
Jane’s book is successful for Tristesse and Jane has one more book to deliver to them to fulfill her two book contract. However – she’s blocked. She can’t decide upon the ending. Her and Tom fizzled out not long after he published her first book and now, as per Jane’s request, they don’t see each other. Tom decides that Jane’s problem is that she’s just too happy. The success of her first novel has made her much happier, which is why she cannot write. So he resolves to make all aspects of her life miserable. That way she will finish the novel and deliver Tristesse Books from the grim fate that awaits them without it. Tom needs this book – without it he will certainly lose his business and livelihood.
But maybe Tom has it wrong about what it is that’s causing Jane’s block. And maybe he’s wrong about what he needs as well.
So I’m a little bit in two minds about this book.
When I started it, I thought I was going to love it. The first 50p flew by and made me laugh. I liked Tom Duval, a Frenchman who has made his way to Glasgow and decided to stay. He’s somewhat temperamental and has a habit of making his writers cry and storm out (and that’s just the beginning). Jane has had a horrid childhood and she has poured all of that pain into her first manuscript, laughably entitled The Endless Anguish of my Father. When Tom first receives it, he pitches it into the bin and it’s only because he needs to kill something (a fly I think?) that he retrieves it and ends up reading it. He immediately knows he can publish it, although he has to fix it first. The interactions between Tom and Jane were interesting and crackled off the page. I was surprised, given the blurb, how long it took for the book to reach the part where Tom and Jane part ways and Jane is working on her second book. And that’s where it started to slide a bit for me.
Although I kind of understand Tom’s reasoning in wanting to hurry Jane along in finishing her second manuscript, because his company is in serious trouble and he needs to publish something with a successful name behind it, some of the stunts he pulled…kind of sat uncomfortably with me. I know it’s intended to be humour and Tom is kind of emotionally underdeveloped as a person but he was intending to hurt Jane quite a bit and make her really miserable. Now if this was written making Tom the publisher from hell, with zero romantic interest, I might’ve enjoyed it a lot more. But I found it quite weird that Tom was obviously in love with Jane (and she him as well) but he was intending to do these horrible things to her to make her miserable so that she might write. A couple of them were harmless and the one that would’ve done some severe, severe damage to Jane’s mental state and her very fledgling relationship with someone important to her doesn’t actually come off but the point is, Tom still tried to destroy things to her that were important.
I enjoyed the portion of the book where Jane and Tom worked together to edit her first novel: their discussions, their unorthodox ways of working together, their tipping over into sexual attraction, that all worked for me. I liked Tom during that section of the book, in all his moody French glory. I didn’t like him quite so much in the second half of the book although I did really enjoy his employee/friend Roddy. Roddy wavers between the voice of reason and willing accomplice in some of Tom’s more outlandish attempts to make Jane miserable so that she can finish her book. Some of the interactions between Tom and Roddy were quite funny and might even be the highlights of the book. Unfortunately, I found the interactions between Jane and Darsie really difficult to get into. I think that sort of thing in a book is something a reader either really loves or doesn’t get at all. I’m in the ‘don’t really get it’ camp.
So….two minds. The first part is a thumbs up but not the second part unfortunately.(less)
They are a close-knit circle of friends, four couples who once laughingly nicknamed themselves ‘The Castaways’. They live on the island of Nantucket:...moreThey are a close-knit circle of friends, four couples who once laughingly nicknamed themselves ‘The Castaways’. They live on the island of Nantucket: Greg and Tess, Jeremy and Delilah, the Chief and Andrea and Addison and Phoebe. They were all quite different but they had been friends for years – socialising together, holidaying together.
But then Greg and Tess are tragically killed in a boating accident on their twelfth wedding anniversary and things as The Castaways know them begin to fall apart. Greg and Tess leave behind seven year old twins and Andrea, Tess’s cousin, although adamant about taking them in, finds herself so stricken in her grief that she simply isn’t up to the task. She’s too far gone in her own loss to be the rock the twins need right now. But she won’t let anyone else take them for a while, ease the burden either.
All of the friends are keeping secrets – about what they know, about their relationships with the recently deceased. For some, they are mourning far more than the loss of a friend and they can’t talk about it. For others, it is the realisation that they may have not known everything they thought they did about someone very dear to them. As the friends grieve, the secrets will all begin to come out and only once they have can the group all look at moving forward with their lives.
I’ve had this book sitting on my TBR shelf for a long time. I remember not long after we moved into this house, Borders (anyone remember them?!) had a huge warehouse sale that turned out to be about 20 minutes away. My husband and I went and bought 5 bags of books for about $150. They were all $1, $2 or $5 each and most of them have been patiently waiting for me to read them ever since. I picked up this one yesterday because I’m trying to read more of my own books as well as devoting time to review copies.
For the most part, I didn’t mind the story but the revolving points of view between the six surviving members of the group did occasionally pull me out of it. I would just be getting settled into one person’s feelings and then it’d be on to the next person and occasionally I just wished it didn’t change quite so often. There’s also a huge amount of backstory for all of the characters which bogged the book down at times.
The group of friends are interesting enough but they are a bit incestuous. Of the eight of them, there were a lot of confused feelings and several affairs or would-be affairs and it all seemed very close to home. One of the women, Andrea, had previously dated another of the men in the group before she married the Chief and it seemed like a lot of the characters had very unresolved feelings toward each other. Several of the relationships (Andrea and Tess most definitely) are very suffocating and you wonder how people could actually stand to be around each other that much and be involved in each other’s lives that much. I don’t have a twin so I don’t know what that connection is like but I found Phoebe’s story of losing her twin brother in September 11 both horrifying and a little uncomfortable. She completely withdrew from life after his death – was unable to function without a cocktail of pills to numb everything. Her husband and friends tried their best to help her, to try and get her to seek help in ways other than tablets but in some ways they also enabled her, including coming to her when they needed any form of medication. A Valium here, a Xanax there. Maybe something for the pain, or a muscle relaxant.
The author lives on Nantucket and from what I gather, most if not all of her books appear to be set there. I don’t know much about Nantucket but I’d have liked to read more about it in the book. It really could have been set anywhere – apart from the section where Delilah takes the plane to the mainland to take the children to see a movie, there’s really nothing else that lets you know that it is set on a small island.
The Castaways moves along at a very even pace throughout the story and there are no real peaks and lows, for me. There are several reveals throughout and at the end that are probably meant to be quite dramatic but they never really felt that way. Each new piece of information is revealed quietly, usually in confidence or flashback and then things move on to another character and another point of view. It isn’t until the end that people begin to share information. It’s a pleasant read but lacks real dramatic impact and the kind of characters that can carry it and the relationships within it.(less)
Kelly Roberts lives with her husband on a huge spread in the remote cattle country in northern Australia. This has been her life since she left home a...moreKelly Roberts lives with her husband on a huge spread in the remote cattle country in northern Australia. This has been her life since she left home at eighteen and boarded a bus. She worked as a ringer/jillaroo and there she met Bob, a skilled horseman who knew his place in the world and how to do his job. Together they had two children, raising them on properties. When tragedy strikes, Kelly takes her two children to her father-in-law’s property. Bob was long estranged from his father but both Kelly and her father-in-law Quinn believe that they can start over again and heal the rift.
At the property Evergreen Springs, Quinn has been slowly turning it into a camping ground for tourists and Kelly, as part owner of the property, isn’t sure that they should be splashing so much money around without having much of an idea about the return. She has the children to think of – both of them have been schooled by the School of the Air but her eldest Rob will soon either need to go to boarding school or board in town with a local and attend the high school. Kelly doesn’t want to leave Evergreen Springs but the reality is, she may need to move to town and get a job so that she can afford to send the children to school. Quinn convinces her to give six months on the property a go and see if she can sees them making a proper go of it. The tourists are coming – their land has a creek, a perfect camping ground and Quinn makes sure that there’s always plenty to do and lots of fresh fruit and vegetables to sell them. In his mind it’s the perfect business, they just need to nurture it and watch it grow.
Then Rob makes a sinister discovery in the bush and Kelly realises that danger lurks not too far away from the peaceful property they have made their home.
Tracking North is the first book I’ve read from Kerry McGinnis and it’s set in the Gulf Country, the north-west region of Queensland that is wedged between the Cape of York and Arnhem Land and fronts onto the Gulf of Carpentaria. The setting is beautiful. So much time is devoted to describing the properties, the isolation, the types of buildings the characters live in and the improvements they use. They live without grid electricity, using wood stoves for cooking and heating until Quinn rigs up a generator to light the buildings. In the Wet season they can be cut off from town for weeks if the roads flood or just the sheer amount of rain makes them impossible to navigate without being bogged. The children have a lovely freedom that’s somewhat reminiscent of the Mary Grant Bruce Billabong series that I loved so much as a kid – riding their ponies, helping out with chores, doing some lessons and growing vegetables etc until they head either to boarding school or into town at 12/13 years old to go to high school.
The story is so enjoyable, I found myself sinking into it with absolutely nothing distracting me. Kelly is having to ‘start over’ after a tragic loss. She’s had to uproot her children and change their lives and they’ve lost someone who was most important to them. Her son is growing into a man, fighting against her restrictions and she longs to hold him closer for just a little longer, keep him her baby. But he’s been raised in the bush to be independent, to be capable and strong and she knows that she needs to let him have his freedom, keep growing up and developing and learning things. They are all capable really – Kelly is used to isolated life having lived it with Bob for well over a decade. She can cook, keep a garden and is not afraid of hard work. She can read the weather and knows what the patterns mean.
I’m not cut out for that sort of life (am far too precious to give up my indoor plumbing, laptop, cable TV etc) but I love reading about it. McGinnis paints a lovely sense of community as well, detailing the local events and the way they welcome each other’s children into their homes, often for weeks at a time (or to board semi-permanently). She also capitalises on the remoteness of the Gulf to work in a story of a mystery aircraft and what it might possibly be up to. There’s also the small possibility of a new future for Kelly as well and all of these strands work together quite effortlessly, woven into one cohesive and enjoyable story. I loved the character of Quinn – a tough old bushman, no education to speak of but possessed of a very different sort of knowledge and skilled in all sorts of bush and rural trades plus he turned out to be much wilier than anyone, especially Kelly assumed. Quinn definitely added a certain spark to the story and it was fantastic watching his relationships with the children grow as they got to know each other.
Tracking North is a wonderful story and Kerry McGinnis has obviously used her extensive knowledge of the area and also remote cattle property living to craft it. I am definitely adding her other books to my TBR list.(less)
For more than the last decade, Callie and her mother have lived life permanently on the run. They never stay in one place too long, always up and movi...moreFor more than the last decade, Callie and her mother have lived life permanently on the run. They never stay in one place too long, always up and moving in the dead of the night or at a moment’s notice, sometimes skipping out on rent owed. Sometimes they have a car, other times it’s a bus as far as their money will take them. From the time she was a small child, this has been Callie’s life. She’s never been to school. She’s never had a library card. She doesn’t have her license.
During another flee, Callie’s mother is pulled over for a broken taillight and the cop runs the plates only to discover that they are stolen. From that she is then arrested for kidnapping and Callie meets the father she can barely remember, the one that she has been led to believe doesn’t want her. She goes with him to Florida where she lived as a little girl and although she manages to dredge up a few memories, most of this is foreign to her. She meets her brand new family and sees what might have been her life – friends, a job, a place of her very own, a boy who likes her for herself and not because he wants something.
But Callie is torn as well. She doesn’t know these people, not really. Her mom has been her whole world for as long as she can remember and Callie feels horribly guilty without her. She doesn’t know that she will ever fit in here in Florida. Callie has a choice to make – she can give up everything she’s ever known and place her trust in people she doesn’t know yet, and hope that it doesn’t all end horribly. Or she can pack up and run again, just the way they’ve always done.
About eighteen or so months ago I read Trish Doller’s debut novel, Something Like Normal and was totally taken by it. When this one was released I ordered it straight away but it got a little buried under other books. I recently rediscovered it when fiddling around with my YA shelves and immediately resolved to bump it back up to the top of my TBR pile.
Where The Stars Still Shine deals with child kidnapping but Callie is almost an adult when the crime is revealed to her and her mother is arrested for it. Many years ago she took Callie from her father after their separation and ran and they’ve been on the run ever since. For Callie, she didn’t know it was a kidnapping, she’s been told a lot of other things by her mother and she has to adjust to this news and also has to deal with her feelings for both of her parents. She can’t hate her mother, especially when it becomes apparent that her mother has a form of mental illness – but she’s bitter and angry at her mother for taking her as well, for allowing things to happen to her on the run and for denying her opportunities. At the same time she loves her and she knows her – she doesn’t even know her father and she has to try and get to know him as well as fit in with his family, wife Phoebe and two young sons Tucker and Joe.
It’s not just her family that Callie has to deal with, including the whole extended Greek gatherings. She also has to learn how to have friends, something that’s never happened before and deal with meeting boys and negotiating entirely new relationships. Callie has never had a boyfriend but she’s not inexperienced in some ways. Despite finding a boy that makes her feel things, perhaps for the first time in that way, she still suffers nightmares and flashbacks about the abuse she experienced at the hands of someone way back in her past. Because of her mother’s poor record with relationships, being in one is a learning curve for Callie and she makes some mistakes. And she’s not the only one.
Where The Stars Still Shine is written with sensitivity and care, touching on childhood abuse and its possible lasting effects as well as tackling mental illness in a way that is deeply sympathetic and not judgmental. I enjoyed the character of Callie’s father and his grief, relief and awkward attempts to balance being the father he was denied and knowing that it was really too late for that kind of parenting now. The best he could hope for was making Callie feel welcome and comfortable and hope that she would want to stay with him. I think this was really well done and his and Callie’s interactions felt very genuine. They both made mistakes (Callie had a habit of running away from her problems, probably a learned behaviour ingrained from childhood) and at times they stumbled along. It wasn’t perfect and they had to work at it.
My only real issue with this one is that the romance felt very instalove in the beginning and throughout most of the book. I think it was fleshed out in the end but it took a long time for them to get to know each other and share those intimate things about themselves. I know their relationship grows and changes and develops and that’s good but the attraction in the beginning seemed very rushed and there was no real showing of chemistry. But apart from that I loved all facets of this book and it further cemented Trish Doller as such a gifted voice of contemporary young adult/new adult literature.(less)
Colleen O’Rourke loves fixing up the people in her hometown of Manningsport. She owns the local bar with her twin brother Connor and can be found behi...moreColleen O’Rourke loves fixing up the people in her hometown of Manningsport. She owns the local bar with her twin brother Connor and can be found behind it mixing drinks and dispensing advice to her customers. She’s quick to spot a potential couple and move to make it happen. There are a plethora of little Colleens in Manningsport, named for her by grateful parents. There’s even a Colin and a Cole, the birth of a male baby not deterring some from honouring Colleen for her contribution.
But the one person that Colleen has never secured romantic bliss for is herself. She’s been (mostly) happily single, unable to commit but willing to have fun with the odd man that crosses her path. Ten years ago her first and only love, Lucas Campbell broke her heart. And Colleen hasn’t been willing to get involved with anyone else after that. Colleen prefers harmless flirting with everyone from eighteen to eighty. It keeps her heart protected.
But now a family situation has bought Lucas Campbell back to Manningsport. He’s still as attractive and charismatic as ever and it seems that Colleen is as unable to resist as she was ten years ago. But Colleen has made her home in Manningsport and Lucas is only here temporarily. Colleen can’t afford to let her defenses down around this man again – he almost destroyed her last time and she knows the sort of happiness she could find with him. Does she take the risk again with him, even if just for a little while? Or does she turn her back on a second chance at love?
Waiting On You is the third installment in Kristan Higgins’s Blue Heron series – the first two books revolved around sisters Faith and Honor Holland. I absolutely adored the first book, The Best Man. Levi and Faith had an amazing chemistry and the setting was so enjoyable and Faith’s crazy family were a big part of the book’s charm. I was less into the second book, The Perfect Match – I loved the setting and characters still but I didn’t really get the romance as much as I did in the first novel. The hero didn’t carry it off for me but I still enjoy the series enough to be really excited about this one. For the first time we leave the Holland family (although they do still appear) and focus on Colleen, a friend of Faith’s and Honor’s who has been a part of both of the previous books.
Colleen is fun and outgoing, able to charm pretty much anyone and she loves love. She loves fixing people up and gets satisfaction out of seeing people find happiness. Her job at the bar that she owns with her brother keeps her right in the middle of the social scene in their small town and she enjoys knowing everyone. However ten years ago, Colleen had her heart broken by her high school boyfriend and she’s never been able to forget about it. Add in some damage from the disintegration of her parents marriage and although Colleen loves getting others together, she’s firmly anti-commitment herself. And then Lucas Campbell strolls back into Manningsport…and her life.
I loved Colleen and Lucas’s background – I’m a bit of a sucker for the ‘teenage love story gets a second chance’ storyline and I think the misunderstandings and problems were serious enough to cause the events to happen the way they did, however I’d have liked a little more of Colleen and Lucas in the past to really get a stronger sense of their connection. There’s a few scenes but there could’ve been more, and I’d have like Lucas to be fleshed out a little bit better, perhaps with a flaw or two. In many ways he reads as too good to be true, how patient and tolerant he is of the way he has been treated by his aunt. He did make a pretty big mistake which led to a few small mistakes but most of the time Lucas feels a little lacking in dimension.
I think that more of the book could’ve been devoted to Colleen and Lucas and their prior relationship and their reconnecting. A lot of the book is taken up with Colleen attempting to matchmake Paulie, an acquaintance of hers from high school and although this is amusing, it could’ve been less invasive into the main plot. I was also a bit disappointed at the portrayal of Colleen’s stepmother. It lacks any kind of originality and taps right into the trophy wife trope – tight clothes, homewrecker, only slightly older than Colleen. I think Higgins attempts to give the character a bit of depth towards the end but it comes after so many pages of deriding her dress sense, her looks, her character, everything that it doesn’t work as well as it could have. Colleen idolised her father so she probably needed to justify his actions to herself by ridiculing her stepmother as much as she could and although she does have her eyes opened to her father, the resolution there seemed really clunky and rushed. That sort of relationship can’t be repaired in a paragraph or two.
Colleen and Lucas had some good interactions and their backstory was strong. Their current story could’ve been a bit stronger. What I did really enjoy (and I use that term loosely because it affected me in a hugely personal way) was Lucas’s relationship with his uncle Joe, who is on dialysis and dying of cancer. My grandfather died of kidney failure last year, so there were some things in this story that were similar and very hard to read for me but I think it was portrayed very well. I think grieving adult males are difficult to write but Higgins nailed it.(less)
Emily Oliphant has made big changes in her life. She’s left her abusive husband after several years of an unhappy marriage and is forging a new life f...moreEmily Oliphant has made big changes in her life. She’s left her abusive husband after several years of an unhappy marriage and is forging a new life for herself in a gorgeous old property that she’s renting from two elderly brothers. Recently the brothers made Emily an offer – she could purchase her beloved house from them for an excellent price. There were a few conditions and Emily was taking the time to think it over. It’s a wonderful offer and she knows it – she just wants to make sure that she is financially able to make her obligations in the future, especially as the house does need some things done to it.
Emily is also making other changes, cultivating friendship with Barbara and distancing herself from her judgmental mother and those who don’t understand her decision to leave her husband. She’s undertaking a fledgling new business that she has high hopes for and is accepting the help and friendship of Jake, a man from Melbourne who she’d like to be closer to. Emily’s life is changing in so many ways but to her disappointment, it’s not done changing yet.
Several incidents beyond her control leave Emily’s future up in the air. All of a sudden the beautiful house she longed to make her home in, might be snatched away out of her hands. And she’s also dealing with an unexpected death as well as a potentially ugly fall out from that. What Emily doesn’t know is that the answer to all of her dreams lies within her grasp…but she has to choose to use it.
Time Will Tell is the second novel in Australian author Fiona McCallum’s first series, following on from Saving Grace. In this novel in the beginning, Emily is much more settled, having found herself a new place to live with her dog Grace. She has the friendship of Barbara and Barbara’s husband and she has plans. She knows that some of them might be dreams, but there are some that are also very achievable if she works hard and Emily is very ready for the next phase of her life.
In Saving Grace Emily has a bit of a negative attitude, probably from her upbringing and her abusive marriage but it was nice to see in this novel, she has begun moving forward with more positivity. She has had a lot to overcome in her personal life and Time Will Tell begins to signify a real fresh start for her and gives her time and space to think about how she wants to move forward. However just as she is about to make some firm decisions, she is rocked by the news of two unexpected deaths, one of which has some interesting consequences for her and the other of which has a more devastating impact on her newly chosen life.
I’d have liked to see Emily get herself some legal advice in this book as she proved in Saving Grace that ignoring a request to get legal advice doesn’t end well and she ended up allowing herself to be royally screwed over. However she doesn’t and luckily in this book she benefits from something which helps soothe the sting of having something else taken away from her but it also suggests that Emily still has quite a way to go on her journey of independence and making strong and wise, informed decisions. I can’t fault her for getting out there and having a go, at various different things and making the most of the skills she has but sometimes she needs to be a bit smarter and a bit more ruthless. She needs to look after herself first, put herself first and not just go along with what people are telling her. The time for that was done when she left her husband and now she needs to protect herself first and foremost. However I do think that this novel does represent a good deal of personal growth for Emily, in several different ways. She has the possibility here to grow the seeds of a new romance, something that she has come to feel that she is ready for and the man she has chosen seems to complement her well and they are supportive of each other.
Emily still has a way to go on her journey and her decision about what to do with the legacy that has been left to her by her grandmother. I’m curious to see where she goes with the way her journey has changed in this book and I think there’s a lot left for her to do and experience. She has grown in confidence and accepted change with more grace and adapted more readily to new circumstances. However I’m very interested to see what happens with her legacy and how she continues to grow in strength and determination in her new life.(less)