Tuesday, 11 February 2020

Blue Skies Over Berlin by John Steinberg

A young German woman, thinking she can escape her memories of wartime Berlin, moves to London in 1954 under her new name of Charlotte Brown. The offer of a prestigious job at the National Gallery leads her to believe that she can establish a new life in a city itself emerging from the ruins of war.

With her new identity, Charlotte hopes she has left Eva Schlessinger far behind . . . but when her job brings her into contact with a ruthless set of art dealers with dubious wartime connections, she fears they can see behind her facade. Priceless masterpieces start appearing at auction, stolen from murdered Jewish families by the Nazis, and she herself is implicated. At this point, Charlotte makes a solemn promise – one that will take her a lifetime to fulfil.

Blue Skies Over Berlin is a novel about secrets and guilt in an uncertain time, balanced by friendship and enduring love - and ultimately the need to make amends for just standing by.

Born and raised in North London in 1952, John still lives in the city with his wife and three children. Privately educated, John left school after ‘A’ levels and completed a business diploma in what is now the University of Westminster, before entering banking.

He started training as an accountant but did not complete the course, choosing a position in his family’s furniture manufacturing business instead. John started his own mergers and acquisitions business in 1987, which he ran for almost 20 years before quitting to become a full time writer in 2007.

John has co-written and produced comedies for the stage and has created a series of books for children. “Previously, I had only been interested in comedy and finally started to write down the things I said or thought of. That led me to co-write and produce a play, In the Balance, and then W for Banker – which appeared at the New End Theatre, Hampstead. It was then I decided to quit the world of business in favour of writing full-time, and move toward more serious subjects. My first novel has taken two years to write and is the first in a series of books I am calling the ‘Steinberg Stories’.”

Thursday, 6 February 2020

Mrs Boots by Deborah Carr (Review)

Jersey, 1885

On the beautiful island of Jersey, Florence Rowe lives a quiet life working in her father’s bookshop. Life for the Rowe family is good, but Florence can’t help yearning for more…

When Jesse Boot, the successful owner of Boots the chemist, arrives on the island, Florence is immediately captivated by his tales of life in a busy, bustling city on the mainland. For the first time ever, Florence imagines a life away from the constraints of Jersey society, of being someone more than just a shopgirl.

Until her parents reveal the shocking news they will refuse any marriage proposal from Mr Boot. Can Florence find a way to be with the man she loves and make a new life for herself?

Mrs Boots is the first book in the Mrs Boots series by Deborah Carr. If you just want the romantic story of how the owner of Boots met and fell in love then you will be more than happy with just this book. But if, like me, you want to find out what happens next and hopefully some more fabulous factual information about the Boots company then I am sure you will be waiting impatiently for the next book to be released.

I really loved this book. Some reviewers have mentioned that it seemed slow going, but for me, the pace was perfect and highlighted just how long a courtship that Jessie Boot and Florence Rowe had to have. They were both relatable characters and I am so glad that they found each other. They truly sound like soulmates. I don't want to say any more about them because it would be too easy to give spoilers.

What I will say is that finding out the origins of the Boots company, and about Jesse and Florence who were real people was really fascinating. I also loved learning about Rowes the Stationers that Florence worked at which belonged to her father. The store was based in Jersey and although I have never been and things, of course, will have changed much since then, I would still love to go there now and see the place for myself.

So between the fabulous setting, the real historical background plus the wonderful romance between Jesse and Florence I found myself thoroughly enjoying this book and am very happy to recommend it! 

Deborah Carr lives on the island of Jersey in the Channel Islands with her husband, two children and three rescue dogs. She became interested in books set in WW1 when researching her great-grandfather's time as a cavalryman in the 17th 21st Lancers.

She is part of ‘The Blonde Plotters’ writing group and was Deputy Editor on the online review site, Novelicious.com for seven years. Her debut historical romance, Broken Faces, is set in WW1 and was runner-up in the 2012 Good Housekeeping Novel Writing Competition and given a 'special commendation' in the Harry Bowling Prize that year. The Poppy Field is her second historical novel.

Wednesday, 5 February 2020

The Chief by Cecelia Mecca (Review)

Rory Kennaugh is perfectly happy to remain his brother’s second indefinitely. Or so he tells himself. Their father served as both clan chief and earl, after all, and despite Terric’s long residence in England, there’s no reason to believe his brother will relinquish the title. But his perception of himself and his future in the clan is transformed by a surprising revelation on Saint Valentine’s Feast Day.

Cristane has ascended to one of the highest position possible for a servant: lady’s maid. Only her lady Cait, now the countess of Licheford, has not yet sent for her, and her foolish heart has attached itself to Cait’s brother. She knows perfectly well Rory can never return her love, which is why she keeps her feelings to herself—until the Valentine’s feast, when the traditional games reveal her mortifying secret to the object of her affection.

The revelation about Cristane’s feelings changes Rory, unlocking his heart, and a new challenge to the clan gives him the chance to prove his mettle. But can a chief, or even a second, dare to love a lady’s maid?

The Chief is the final book, a novella in the Order of the Broken Blade series by Cecelia Mecca. You can read the book as a standalone, but believe me, you will enjoy it so much more if you have read the other books because then you will appreciate just how wonderful it is to read Rory's story.

Rory Kennaugh is a highlander, second to his twin brother, Terric, who is both an Earl and a Clan chief. He could be given either of those positions from Terric but he doesn't particularly want them and Terric hasn't offered.

Cristane has worked up from being a serving girl to now being Lady's maid to Terric's wife, Cait. It's a wonderful position for her and she and Cait get along famously. She has known both Terric and Rory for years and secretly has been in love with Rory for most of that time. They are good friends and Cristane never dreams they could be anything more especially with their class difference.

On Saint Valentine's day, it comes to light through a Scottish tradition that Cristane has feelings for Rory. He is shocked and she is embarrassed. Rory had never thought of her as anything except a friend, he hadn't really noticed that she had grown up beautifully. Once he realises she has feelings for him he takes a good look at her, sees how beautiful she has become and wonders how he could have missed it in the first place.

He convinces her to spend some time with him and the more time they spend with each other the more they find themselves lusting for each other more than either thought possible. They still have their class difference to consider. Cristane doesn't want to be his mistress but he can't offer to take her as a wife. Maybe they should just stay away from each other, maybe they should just enjoy a night or two and then go back to being friends. Would that even be possible?

As well as the budding relationship building between our main couple, there is also a threat of war between clans that Rory has to deal with. It's something that Terric should be doing but he is in England with his wife. Rory has sent him a message but will Terric reply to it before the decision about whether to fight or not has to be made by Rory?

What I really enjoy about books by Cecelia Mecca is that there is never a dull moment. Nothing drags on too much, and there is always something happening that keeps me wanting to read as quickly as possible to see the outcome. The settings the stories are told in are described beautifully and I love reading the books and imagining myself sounding Scottish when I read their accented words. I love too that Rory, as the other men in the series are, is a strong and faithful man who doesn't try to keep his women under the thumb. They all appreciate the strength their women bring to their relationships. They don't try to change their women and love them as they are.

I was so pleased that Rory found his happy ending, like the rest of the men in the Broken Blade series, but I am also so very sad that the series has come to an end. I will miss Rory, Terric, Lance, Guy, Conrad and their wonderful ladies!

A former English teacher, Cecelia combines two of her passions, romance novels and the middle ages, in the bestselling Border Series transporting readers to an admittedly romanticized time of knights and castles.

She lives in Northeast, Pennsylvania with her husband and two young children where she can be found either planning a Disney trip, watching period dramas or convincing her children to watch Star Wars. She is firmly House Stark and Gryffindor.

Friday, 31 January 2020

Rags to Riches Wife by Catherine Tinley (Review & Giveaway)

Lady’s maid…

To wedded Lady?

Lady’s maid Jane Bailey’s life is turned upside down by the arrival of wealthy gentleman Robert Kendal. He’s come to take Jane to visit her long-lost, aristocratic grandfather. Travelling together, they succumb to a mutual attraction. Yet Jane knows a maid should not hope to love a gentleman, even if she’s suddenly wearing silk dresses and dining with the Family. Society decrees they cannot marry, but how long can Jane deny her heart?

Purchase Links:

http://getbook.at/RagsToRiches   Catherine's Website

Rags-to-Riches Wife is a standalone book by Catherine Tinley. It is quite a long read but saying that it didn't seem to drag, and it never got boring.

This was very much a story of the classes where despite love being forbidden it very much exists. Jane Bailey is a Lady's maid, circumstances could have been different had it not been for a major falling out between her father and her grandfather. The latter, a wealthy gentleman, didn't want his son marrying a common servant and disowned him when he did. The rift was never healed and after her father died both Jane and her mother had to find work in service.

It was a complete shock to Jane when wealthy gentleman Robert Kendall arrived at her place of work making enquiries about her on behalf of his uncle by marriage, Jane's grandfather. If she was agreeable he was to take her to meet her grandfather. After some soul searching she agrees to go.

During the long journey there Jane and Robert get to know each other quite well. They are comfortable with each other and it isn't long before they realise that they are attracted to each other. Of course, that attraction wouldn't be worth acting upon because of their class difference, but it simmered away in the background all the same.

Not only did Jane have to deal with her feelings for Robert but she had to deal with prejudices on both sides of the class divide, the wealthy including her grandmother by marriage looking down their noses at her, making her feel as if she didn't belong. The servants looking at her as if she was just a servant pretending to be better than them. Jane couldn't blame the servants for that because she did indeed feel as if she should be staying in the servant quarters and working amongst them. Her grandfather wouldn't allow that as she was there as his guest and he hoped that she would take her rightful place living as part of his family. Jane has to decide if she can forgive him for cutting his father off after choosing to marry her mother, she also has to decide if she could fit into this new world, and on top of all that, she has those feelings of attraction to Robert to deal with. Even if she was to live amongst the wealthy she still knows she is a servant at heart.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading how everything worked out for Jane. It was all acceptable and believable including the outcome for her and Robert. I have to say when they gave in to their passion it was a long time coming and I was thrilled for them both! I really got caught up in the story and loved every minute of it. I even shed a tear or two at one point. I am happy to recommend this book and am glad that I had the opportunity to read it.

Three winners will each receive a signed copy of Rags to Riches Wife, plus a mystery book by another romance writer (two GB/Ireland, one international).

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Catherine Tinley writes witty, heartwarming Regency love stories for Harlequin Mills & Boon. She has loved reading and writing since childhood, and has a particular fondness for love, romance, and happy endings.

After a career encompassing speech & language therapy, NHS management, maternity campaigning and being President of a charity, she now works in Sure Start. She lives in Ireland with her husband, children, and dog and can be reached at:

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Lilian and the Irresistible Duke by Virginia Heath (Review and Giveaway)

Responsible widow Lilian Fairclough is persuaded to travel to Rome for a hard-earned break and to let down her hair! She’s surprised to be reunited with passionate, cynical Italian duke Pietro Venturi. He reawakens her sensual side and intrigues her with glimpses of pain beneath his rakish surface. Enticed into a secret and temporary affair, what will happen once she returns home?


Lilian and the Irresistible Duke by Virginia Heath is the fourth book in the Secrets of a Victorian Household series. There are four books in the series and each one has been written by a different author. I have only read one of the others, but you needn't read the others in order to fully understand and enjoy this one.

Lilian Fairclough has been a widow for 10 years, she loved her husband with all her heart and knows she will never marry again because she couldn't love any man as much as she loved her Henry. She is 45 and has happily seen her 3 children grow up, fall in love and marry. She feels lonely now that the children have all flown the coop and with some not so gentle persuasion from those children she is convinced to take two months away from her normal life and enjoy a break in Italy. Her late husband's cousin, Alexandra will travel with her too, so Lilian is looking forward to the break away.

Pietro Venturi, Duca della Torizia is 48. He is a widower but there is no love lost where his story is concerned. All he felt when his wife died was relief. Since then he has been determined to only have affairs with women, he has no intention to marry ever again, he enjoys his freedom, he enjoys women, and he enjoys art. He has no intention of ever changing his way of life.

Lilian is horrified when she realises that the place she and Alexandra will be spending their vacation is actually Pietro's home. She is horrified because the previous year they ended up sharing a toe-numbing, mind-blowing kiss! It was just one kiss but it's one neither of them has forgotten. Lilian considered it a huge mistake and doesn't want Pietro to think that he can take any liberties with her now that she is under his roof. She makes that perfectly clear to him at the first available opportunity.

He tells her that he understands perfectly and that they should still be able to spend time as friends, especially as they have a mutual love of art and he wants to take her places where she can experience the best that the country has to offer. They spend a lot of time together because of that, and the more time they spend together the more they feel both their friendship and their lust building. Neither wants to marry again, perhaps they can just have an affair? But in the end, will it be enough. They both think so, but maybe they will find out that they have been fooling themselves!

I really loved this story, not least because of the age of our couple. It's nice to have a book that shows that lust and love aren't reserved purely for those under 30. I enjoyed the budding romance between Pietro and Lilian and how they spent so much time enjoying the artistic delights that Italy has to offer. I have never been to the Sistine Chapel, but I have to admit that after reading this book I would definitely love to see it for myself!

This book ticked all the boxes for me and left me smiling. I loved every emotional minute of it and am more than happy to recommend it.
2 x e-copies of Lilian and the Irresistible Duke to be won!

When Virginia Heath was a little girl it took her ages to fall asleep, so she made up stories in her head to help pass the time while she was staring at the ceiling. As she got older, the stories became more complicated, sometimes taking weeks to get to the happy ending. Then one day, she decided to embrace the insomnia and start writing them down. Fortunately, the lovely people at Harlequin Mills & Boon took pity on her and decided to publish her romances, but it still takes her forever to fall asleep.

Wednesday, 29 January 2020

An Unconventional Countess by Jenni Fletcher (Review)

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An Unconventional Countess is the first book in the new series Regency Belles of Bath by Jenni Fletcher. What a wonderful start it is!

Annabelle Fortini owns and runs a biscuit shop with her mother in beautiful Bath. Her mother is from the aristocracy but when she went against her father's wishes to marry a footman he disowned her. From that day until the present they have had no contact. It is because of that that Annabelle despises the aristocracy.

Captain Samuel Delaney joined the navy when he was just 16. He loves life at sea and is annoyed that he is stuck on land for an uncertain amount of time. Wounded in action he needs to recover but before he can even think of going back to sea he needs to find out if he is going to inherit an earldom. Something he doesn't want. The deciding factor is whether or not the late Earl's wife gives birth to a son or a daughter. Samual has his own reasons to dislike the aristocracy despite being the grandson of a baron and an earl. All he wants is go back to the navy and carry on with life.

Annabelle and Samuel first meet when he acts as a distraction for a friend in her store. While he keeps Annabelle busy his friend spends time flirting with her assistant. He's tried to get her alone before but Annabelle has been like a guard dog. She knows what 'Gentlemen' are like and wants to protect her young assistant. She isn't stupid and she knows what Samuel is doing, but he is a customer and she has to serve him.

From the very start, Samuel is intrigued by Annabelle, she is sassy and doesn't hold back from speaking her mind. She can admit to herself that he is a very attractive man, but suspects he is part of the aristocracy and fights the attraction.

Circumstances involving Samuel's grandmother and Annabelle's mother see our couple spending a lot of time together. Time where they learn more about each other and their attraction to each other builds. What will happen when Annabelle learns that the naval captain she has been getting fond of is actually in line for an earldom. Could they both just hope and pray that it doesn't happen. But what if it does? You need to read the book to find out if and how they get their happy ending.

I fully enjoyed this book. I loved that it was set in Bath and laughed at the description of the foul-tasting healthy spring water at the pump rooms. The budding romance between our couple was really delightful and I loved how Samuel's grandmother does her bit to help it along. She is a fabulous character that brings a lot to the story.

The end of the story introduces the character that will take centre stage in the next book and already I am itching to read it. I am sure it will be equally as good as this book, and others in the series as Jenni Fletcher is a fabulous author.

Jenni Fletcher was born on the north coast of Scotland and now lives in Yorkshire, where she writes Medieval, Roman and Victorian romance novels.

She studied English at Cambridge University before doing an MA on Women and Literature in English and a PhD on Victorian & Edwardian literature at Hull. After realising that she was better at writing than teaching, she worked in a number of administrative jobs whilst trying to finish her first book, which was rejected. Thinking there must have been some mistake, she then wrote another, which was fortunately accepted by Harlequin Mills & Boon.

Her favourite Jane Austen novel is Persuasion and her favourite Brontë is Anne. If she had to choose a romantic hero it would be John Thornton, but maybe that’s just because she’s Northern.