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Hannah Fielding "Hannah Fielding, romance novelist" (Deal, Kent, United Kingdom)

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The Letter
The Letter
Price: £3.81

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well-written, compelling, moving and memorable, 2 July 2013
This review is from: The Letter (Kindle Edition)
The Letter is a period drama which tells the tragic story of two lovers, Diana and Michael, who are torn apart by the deceit of Michael's evil and jealous cousin Leo. The night before their wedding, Leo publically fakes an intimate moment with Diana, disgracing her so that she is forced to marry him instead of Michael, leading to eleven years of psychological and physical abuse for Diana at the hands of her callous husband. A year after Leo's death, Michael receives a letter from Leo explaining his hideous deeds and the fact that he has left Diana destitute. Leo cruelly boasts that at his hands Diana is now afraid of any man's touch and that her son is in fact Michael's. These revelations force Michael to go in search of Diana and his long-lost child, and he embarks on a journey to restore her faith in love.

He deserved her formality, but there had been a time when she had whispered his name while speaking words of love. Her hands, red and raw, the nails broken, were clenched tightly. Rage burned deep in his gut, souring his stomach. Between the two of them, he and Leo had destroyed a beautiful woman. He should prostrate himself at her feet and beg forgiveness.

Sandra Owens' excellent use of description and characterisation really breathes life into the characters and settings in this book. From the reserved yet honourable Michael struggling to cope with the guilt of his actions, to the wicked and scarily evil Leo, Sandra has developed two male characters that, whilst representing the diametrically polar opposites common in period romances, are yet realistic and rounded within their world. Despite the horrors inflicted upon Diana, we are still able to see the strength of will and maternal vigour that will ultimately pull her through. In this way, I particularly enjoyed Diana's character, as whilst she is in need of rescue by the hero, Michael, it is her inner strength that ultimately leads to the satisfying conclusion.

He had been doing his best to impress her with his witty remarks. She'd looked up at him and smiled. He had stumbled and almost fallen from the wonder of it. Her smile was the sunshine. It would keep him warm on cold winter days. It was a diamond, a thing of beauty... But after her years in his cousin's hands, did she still smile?

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. Often period romances are characterised by an excess of sentiment, with a focus on wealthy beautiful girls living in a world of society balls and luxury; and of course this is why we enjoy the escapism of these books. However, whilst staying true to the principles of the genre, the fact that this book touches on the darker elements of the period - the forced marriage, the crippling poverty, the dominance of men and the dependence of women on their whims - gives it an edginess that makes it stand out as a real page turner.

Well-written, compelling, moving and memorable, certainly a book I recommend.

Baking Love
Baking Love
by Lauren Boyd
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.49

4.0 out of 5 stars It is a great read, 24 Jun 2013
This review is from: Baking Love (Paperback)
Baking Love is Lauren Boyd's first published book and I was excited to read it when it was released earlier last month. It is a great read and a sweet, engaging story filled with fun and humour.

Baking Love is the story of Kate, who has recently inherited her grandmother's bakery in Hillsborough, and her love for her best friend, Eric, with whom she lost contact when he went to college in New York a few years before and got a girlfriend. The book is told entirely from Kate's point of view, with some amusing internal dialogue which really allows you to understand Kate's wit, strength and tenacity.

One day, while at work in the bakery, Kate meets with a bride to discuss her wedding cake and Kate cannot shake the bad air that sits between them - what is this woman's problem?

She opened one of the photo albums on the table and turned it around to face Cecilia and Loraine. "This album as pictures of the wedding cakes we've done."

"I'm not looking for something that's been done," Cecilia frowned. "I'm looking for originality."

"Of course." Kate opened the note book that was lying on the table and picked up the pen next to it. "Tell me what you'd like."

Cecilia's furrowed brows relaxed into a more satisfied expression. "I want my wedding cake to be unlike anything anyone's ever seen. I want white cake, white frosting, and white fondant. I want pale yellow beadwork, lacework, scrollwork, and fondant flowers. It goes without saying that the decorations should be tasteful and not tacky."

Yet you said it anyway.

When it turns out that Cecilia's fiancé is Kate's old best friend, Eric, Kate begins to understand - Cecilia does not want to use her bakery for her cake, it was Eric's idea. Kate resolves to put her feelings for Eric aside and give her best friend the best wedding cake ever, despite his fiancé's frostiness.

It is soon clear that there are some unresolved issues between Kate and Eric - not the least that Kate was in love with Eric before he went away, but was too afraid to tell him in case it ruined their friendship - and regret that they had lost touch since he left. It is clear that both of them want that friendship back and the friendly banter between them leaves them both at times confused about the status of their friendship. But are wedding rehearsals and preparations the best time to discuss these?

There are some great fun moments in the book, coming from awkward situations and wedding-related craziness which will have you chuckling away to yourself, and they really add to the depth of these characters and the connection between them. It really is a most enjoyable book to read and I look forward to reading more from Lauren Boyd. Although there is one warning for readers of Baking Love - it will make your mouth water with the most amazing descriptions of cakes and frosting...

The Summer House
The Summer House
by Santa Montefiore
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Such a delightful book, 14 Jun 2013
This review is from: The Summer House (Paperback)
Such a delightful book - deliciously thick and full of feeling. I love the maturity of the writing, and the fact that the author feels no need to gallop through at a fast pace, instead really exploring the emotions and thoughts of myriad characters in the aftermath of the death of George, the head of the family.

I found the characters likeable and believable, and I especially engaged with the two lead women, Antoinette and Phaedra (lovely names!). The author's use of the omniscient narrator means we get inside many characters' minds, although I have to say that at times I found the regular shifting about of perspectives mid-scene a little disorientating.

There's a mystery at the heart of the book, introduced early on - a discomfort surrounding the characters of Phaedra and the George's solicitor, Julius. The mystery builds to an explosive revelation towards the end of the book, though I must admit I had guessed the twist early on.

For me, the strengths of the book lie in the relationships between characters, and the poignant exploration of love and loss and moving on. The overall messages that come through are moving and meaningful, and one closes the book with a deep feeling of satisfaction.

The setting is also evocative - especially the scenes in Fairfield Park, Hampshire, the family's Jacobean mansion surrounded by land. I love the folly (the summer house) which acts as the focal point; a place that comes to symbolise new hope and forgiveness.

Overall, this is a book to add to your summer reading list and to pick up when you want a deeper, slower, more poignant book.

The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris
The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris
by Jenny Colgan
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.09

4.0 out of 5 stars One to read if you like grande tragédie, 31 May 2013
No prizes for guessing why I picked up this novel! Romance + chocolate + Parisian backdrop sounds like a recipe for a good love story to me.

I very much like the book's setting, and think the author encapsulates the Parisian well - though I'd have loved more description of this most romantic of settings, and perhaps a little more exploration of French characters beyond the stereotypical brusque ones.

The chocolatier element of the plot is delightful - really evocative and fascinating, and I confess I found myself craving a sliver of fine chocolate several times during the reading! I love the inclusion of recipes at the back, and will be sure to try out one or two.

One of my favourite elements of the book is the way the author blends together two stories - those of modern-day Anna and of Claire when she was young. I especially engaged with Claire's love story; she's a very likeable character, even if she frustrates us a little for having waiting so long to fight for love.

I love the character of Anna's roommate - exhibitionist, eccentric, very `Moulin Rouge'; just what a sad and lonely girl who's new to Paris needs to thrust her into the thick of life.

This is a romance novel, but different in the sense that it deals with some serious issues, and the undercurrent of the book is far from light and fluffy, but really quite dark and thought-provoking. Not a book to pick up for romantic light relief, but one to read if you like grande tragédie and love grounded firmly in reality. And Paris!

The Very Picture of You
The Very Picture of You
by Isabel Wolff
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A truly enjoyable and fulfilling book, 24 May 2013
I bought this book because I was attracted to the blurb - in my own book, Burning Embers, the hero, Rafe, paints portraits of the heroine, Coral, and I loved exploring in my own writing how art can express and heighten emotional connections.

The Very Picture of You is a thought-provoking collage of interconnecting romantic stories centred on portrait painter Ella, set in contemporary London. Brought up to believe that she and her mother had been abandoned by her father at a young age, Ella is scarred and unable to overcome her distrust of men. Told entirely from Ella's point of view, the story documents the loves and lives of a range of characters whose only apparent link is that they have commissioned her to paint for them. Despite this, each story has an impact upon Ella, challenging her viewpoints and causing her to look critically at her own life story and future.

... a competent portrait just catches a likeness and a good portrait reveals aspects of the sitter's character. But a great portrait will show something about the sitter that they didn't even know themselves.
Ella is forced to confront the truth behind long-standing family secrets -- her parent's long-past relationship was much more complicated than she has been led to believe, with implications for Ella's future. In addition, Ella finds herself torn when she falls for Nate, the fiancé of her half-sister, after she is asked to paint him.

I felt a burst of anger with ChloŽ: in asking me to paint Nate she had, albeit unwittingly, put before me a feast that I could never touch. I felt like Tantalus, neck-deep in water that he could never drink, grasping at fruit that was always just out of reach.
As her sister and Nate's wedding day looms events crescendo with an unexpected twist.

Isabel Wolff has an excellent writing style; the book flows seamlessly between stories and the reader is never abandoned as sub-plots twist and weave. The contrasting character back stories keep the reader engaged and the overlap ensures that this book is difficult to put down. Isabel's use of emotion within descriptive passages gives real insight into how it feels to be Ella as she struggles with her emotions and attitudes towards both Nate and her family.

The reader develops a genuine liking for the character and a real desire for her future happiness.

Overall, this is a truly enjoyable and fulfilling book, and I hope that Isabel Wolff will revisit Ella's character in the future.

The Merry Widows Collection: Lessons in Indiscretion\Her Christmas Pleasure\A Scandalous Affair (The Merry Widows (Carina))
The Merry Widows Collection: Lessons in Indiscretion\Her Christmas Pleasure\A Scandalous Affair (The Merry Widows (Carina))
Price: £2.21

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fun, easy, satisfying read, 17 May 2013
This collection of three stories are all linked, as the title suggests, by the fact that each of the female protagonists is a widow. Each was widowed some time ago and each is now looking to move on with her life:

Lady Julia Renwick is thirty-one and her late husband was a lot older than her. After a suitable period of mourning she has decided to take a lover. She has her eyes set on Garrett, the Earl of Bedingfield, a family friend whom she has known for many years. What she doesn't know is that Garrett has also been watching her and wants to seduce her, and he does not care what society will think about it. So when she proposes that they spend the remains of the season as lovers and then go their separate ways in the summer, of course he cannot help but agree to the arrangements.

Celia Danver is made a young widow when her husband dies in battle. His best friend, Damien Morton, promises that her late husband he will look after her and her son. However, Damien realises that his feelings for Celia are more than that of just friends, and despite his promise he plans to run away. Celia is now also wondering if there is more to life than her son and her in-laws, and at a family Christmas get together the family prompt a kiss between Damien and Celia after they inadvertently have a conversation under the mistletoe. After the kiss, Celia realises that she too wants much more than friendship from Damien.

Daphne was also married to an older man and some time after her husband's death her brother suggests that she should find herself a new husband. Together, Daphne and her brother plan a masquerade ball so that Daphne might search for a suitable match. One dance with Lord Camden Hartwell and her heart is stolen. But why does Camden behave so oddly?

Each one of these female protagonists is a fun and feisty character that you cannot help but love. The men too are a wonderful mix of handsome, dark and mysterious, with arrogant and tortured souls. It is easy to see why these women fall for them so hard.

These stories are short, but full of intrigue, chemistry and passion. Karen Erickson has a wonderful way with description and creating action-packed stories that you cannot put down:

A quiver moved through her entire body at his husky voice, his breath stirring the hair at her temple. He lifted his head. His eyes were dark, his expression predatory, as if he wanted to throw her over his shoulder and carry her out of the room.

Triumph surged through her. She hadn't been mistaken. The attraction between them wasn't one-sided. He wanted her.

But could she seduce the renowned seducer?

"Your mind," he murmured, his deep voice washing over her, making her skin hum. Oh, she could drown in the sound of his voice. It rippled and flowed like smooth honey, and she wondered what she might do if he whispered wicked things in her ear with that voice.

The man could kiss, and kiss well. He might lack in social skills and behave as if he were being tortured when amongst a crown, but on a one-to-one basis? Hartwell was absolutely divine.

Overall, a fun, easy, satisfying read - ideal for quick-grab romance on the beach, on the commute or curled up in an armchair in the corner of your local coffee house.

Jasmine Nights
Jasmine Nights
by Julia Gregson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It has that feel of an epic romance, 14 May 2013
This review is from: Jasmine Nights (Paperback)
Three reasons why I bought this book:

1. The cover drew me in, conveying romance and an exotic setting and a bygone time - all favourites for me in novels.

2. It's one of the Richard and Judy Book Club reads, and as I recently read another of their books and loved it (The Fever Tree - see [...] I took that to be a good recommendation for this book.

3. I read on the back-cover blurb that the book is partly set in `the faded glamour of Alexandria' - my birthplace.

There is much to love in this book. It has that feel of an epic romance, given the fraught time in which it is set, the journeying to foreign climes, the drama and the heroics of the armed forces and the performing arts.

The characters really jump off the page, colourful and vibrant and realistic and highly engaging. I especially loved Dom, and the fact that the author tells the story from his point of view as well as Saba's, allowing us to see the unfolding story from both sides.

The story I found fascinating, especially the exploration of ENSA - the entertainment wing of the British armed forces that worked during World War 2 to boost the morale of troops in the field. My knowledge of this was really limited to the famous Vera Lynn before reading the book, and I was delighted to get such insight into ENSA through the novel. Very interesting indeed.

I loved the historical setting of the book, especially the references to the music of the time and the fashions (an amusing hair-dying fiasco made me smile). This is the kind of book you can imagine as a film because the sense of the era comes through so strongly. I'd have loved some more descriptions of the places featured in the book, because I so love to imagine exotic settings in my mind as I read, but I understand that this is a more story-led book than a descriptive one.

What I loved most in the book was the very last scene. Without wishing to give away the ending, suffice it to say that it got my heart racing and left me feeling light-hearted and so very glad I had read the book.

Austenland: A Novel (Austenland 1)
Austenland: A Novel (Austenland 1)
Price: £4.12

5.0 out of 5 stars I loved the humour throughout, 3 May 2013
No prizes for guessing why I bought this book to read and review! From the first line, I was smiling:

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a thirty-something woman in possession of a satisfying career and fabulous hairdo must be in want of very little, and Jane Hayes, pretty enough and clever enough, was certainly thought to have little to distress her.

I loved the premise - a modern-day heroine plunged into Austen's world - and I found it startlingly realistic (and rather appealing) to the point that I found myself, as I read, itching to click onto a search engine and see whether such full-immersion literary retreats actually exist in England. I imagine they do. I hope they do!

The writing is well-researched, fresh, original and colourful, with lovely descriptive touches, such as:

Some voices get hard and tight with age, some rough like broken glass. Her voice was soft sand beaten by waves till it's as fine as powdered sugar.
I very much enjoyed the interweaving of classic English literature references, such as:

a comfortable-sized room with a canopied bed, baby blue walls, sparsely furnished, not gothic enough to tempt her to look for `Catherine Heathcliff' engravings on the windowsill.

... and the author's clear self-awareness of the Austen link throughout:
The chitchatted... Jane thought she understood why Austen often left these conversations up to the narrator and spared the reader the grotesquery of having to follow it word by word.

Occasionally, I wanted to feel a little more that the author had a sound understanding of England - sometimes a little detail jarred for me as not feeling authentic - but overall I think she does very well in situating the book in its English setting.

I loved the humour throughout, such as the interspersed recollections of Jane's earlier, doomed, romances, and the `chicklit' feel to some of the scenes. It's a fun book, a happy and easy read, with plenty of heart-warming moments.

But don't take that to mean this is a fluffy, irreverent book. In fact, I think the author is exploring a very real issue that hinders many modern-day women: getting stuck in fantasy, so that reality can never be enough. The author so beautifully encapsulates the struggle for a romantic in this modern world to find a happy-ever-after. For example:

At a very young age, she had learned how to love from Austen. And according to her immature understanding at the time, in Austen's world there was no such thing as a fling. Every romance was intended to lead to marriage, every flirtation just a means to find that partner to cling to forever.

Through Austenland, we are able to really explore the fantasy of being Elizabeth Bennett, and we see both the wonderful side of that life, but also the downside (all the sitting about gets a little boring after a while, I must say). Ultimately, the ending is very satisfying, and the lead character, Jane, has been on an eye-opening journey and has finally tackled her Mr Darcy obsession.

The French House
The French House
by Nick Alexander
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.39

4.0 out of 5 stars A lovely, light-hearted, meandering read, 26 April 2013
This review is from: The French House (Paperback)
This book is the second novel with the lead protagonist CC. But don't be concerned if you have not read the first, because with Nick's wonderful way of writing, this story happily stands alone and you will not be left behind! You will soon get to know the lovely CC, who wants nothing more than to be happy with a long-term boyfriend/partner (having already had a disastrous stab at marriage earlier on in life) and to start a family. So when her boyfriend of a couple of months, Victor, inherits a dilapidated farmhouse in the south of France and decides to quit London to go out and rebuild the house and live his dream life in the country, CC makes the big decision to go with him. Cue a very bumpy journey with mad, witch-like neighbours, building disasters, plots to scare CC away and freezing-cold water issues.

Told purely from CC's point of view, Nick Alexander has a fabulous way of describing CC's thoughts and emotions that really makes you feel like she is your best friend and you are discussing her life over a cup of tea or a bottle of local French wine:

When I was single - which went on for a very long time - I remember having wished for a man who was capable of sharing the simple pleasures of life with me. I remember imagining a virtual boyfriend lying on the lawn with me, watching ants dragging breadcrumbs through the jungle of blades - a childhood memory, no doubt. Watching the sparkle and melt of the frost until the smell of coffee joins the buttery burn of the croissants is close enough for me.

Everything about him is different in French, from the timbre of his voice to his body language, to the way he moves his hands; it's like watching a stranger, which is a little unnerving, but also rather exciting. It's like having two boyfriends for the price of one.

That Monday night, spent eating pizza amid a sea of boxes, turns out, unexpectedly, to be a wonderful moment of friendship, the kind of moment in fact that you truly never forget. It's the type of scene that, hopefully, when you get to the end of your life, flashes back past you.
But he also has a lovely way of describing some wonderful and poignant moments that make you smile and feel warm inside:

Just as I was describing Orion, with Victor's head squashed against mine so that I can point out the individual stars, I am overcome by a deep sense of belonging, an overpowering and rare sensation of being in exactly the right place at the right time within this vast universe, and, for once, of being with the right person too. It hits me unexpectedly just how improbable this is in this infinite space, how stunningly lucky we are to have bumped into each other, and the realisation is so moving, so humbling, that my voice cracks and my vision blurs, and I have to wipe away an unexpected tear before I can continue stargazing.

`You and me in the middle of all this,' Victor whispers, and I know that he is feeling it too.

The book is mainly set in the picturesque south of France, although the farmhouse that CC finds herself rebuilding is not the lovely or quaint rural idyll she imagined. She is separated from her friends and family, who are all back in London, and so the only person she has to rely on in France is Victor. That said, there are a host of weird and wonderful characters in this book - from the somewhat scary aunt and her weird companion living on the adjacent land, to CC's fabulous best friends in London and her eccentric but loveable mother.

True to genre, there is a suitably happy ending for CC and Victor, although it is not clear where they are going to end up living - another book perhaps?
The reason I chose the book was for the setting and the focus on renovation, because I expected the story to appeal to me, given that my husband and I followed the same path: renovating a mas near St Tropez. I especially loved this element of the book, and naturally I completely bought into the idyllic lifestyle CC and Victor are looking to create, and championed their cause throughout. It's worth it; I know!

I really enjoyed this story, with its lovely descriptions and often funny situations. It is a lovely, light-hearted, meandering read, with a heart-warming message that love is worth every bit of the fight.

The Italian Inheritance
The Italian Inheritance
Price: £2.11

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fabulous story, 12 April 2013
The book is set on the beautiful Italian island of Capri, and the author's delightful descriptions of the island really transport you to this wonderful setting for this love story:

So far Anna loved everything about Capri. The smells were sweet and pungent, the heat balmy and all-encompassing. She'd never seen sky so blue and peering into the azure depths of the Mediterranean as the ferry docked, Anna was overwhelmed by its shimmering clarity. She could even make out the sandy bottom, which had her fighting the urge to throw her hot, sweaty self overboard and into the inviting depths. Capri was a far cry from the austere greyness of London and Anna felt like she had landed on another planet.

There are two main characters in this book, and the story is told from both their perspectives. Both are highly attractive - Rafael, the sexy, deep-voiced Italian, perfectly chiselled with a slightly rough exterior, who oozes confidence; and Anna, the tall, blond, model-like nurse from London, who is looking for a man to settle down with and start a family. Not necessarily two people you would expect to make a good love match. But Anna has not come to Capri looking for love; she is looking for the man she believes to be her father - only she has to get past Rafael first.

The chemistry between these two characters is instantaneous and fiery. Neither can help themselves. But what is confusing for Anna is that Rafael is definitely not looking for anything long term. In fact, he does not even believe that happy-ever-after exists:

Rafael shrugged. "That's life. Who said it was fair?"

"It sucks. Have you ever loved someone who didn't love you back?"

He glanced at her curiously. "No," he said honestly. "I'm not sure I believe in love. Lust, definitely, but that fades with time. Loyalty, yes, for someone you respect. But love..." He shook his head.

The book explores the feelings of these two characters as they deal with tests of their own beliefs about love and lust. It is steamy and passionate at times, and you find yourself willing them on to just be honest with each other.

I really enjoyed the author's writing style, which is descriptive yet light, and at times even funny:

What the hell am I doing? The man is sex on toast and I'm refusing to take a bite. I must need my head read.

It is easy to engage with these characters, despite both their sex-god(dess) appearances. Their thoughts and feelings are clear and compelling. The unforeseen twist towards the end proves that the plot is not predictable, but the essential happy ending is there, true to genre.

In all, a fabulous story and a beautiful island that I cannot wait to visit.

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