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Bryher (Surrey, United Kingdom)

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Summer at the Cornish Cafe: Perfect for fans of Poldark (The Penwith Trilogy, Book 1)
Summer at the Cornish Cafe: Perfect for fans of Poldark (The Penwith Trilogy, Book 1)
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cornish delight, 12 May 2016
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Another gorgeous book from Phillipa Ashley. I devoured it in a day. It may not seem as though Demi and her best (four-legged) friend Mitch have fallen on their feet, offered a ruinous cottage and a tough gig helping a nightmare boss to bring a ruinous holiday park back to life, but it's a roof over her head, and certainly an improvement on what her life has been up to now. It gives her the chance to show just how bright, smart and creative she really is. How Demi and Cal slowly learn to value each other - and maybe more - plays out in the wild and beautiful West Cornish landscape in all its moods.

I love this writer's trademarks of warmth and energy, her believable (always) and loveable (sometimes) characters, and the emotional pacing of their stories. I'm glad I don't know anyone like her anti-heroine though. As the saying goes, I can do without that sort of negativity in my life.

And, oh joy! Could there be future happiness for Cal and Demi? I'm looking forward to the rest of their story!


Blue
Blue
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5.0 out of 5 stars For Young Adults of any age......, 24 Mar. 2016
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This review is from: Blue (Kindle Edition)
For me, this is a case of forget the YA tag - this is a novel with beauty and depth that can be read with enjoyment at any age. Also, I know nothing about surfing, but was more than willing to be sucked in through the wormhole in space-time that separates the beautiful bucket-and-spade Newquay that I know, from the elementally exciting Newquay that the surfers know. The novel drew me in from the first scene - this was such a new and fresh world for me to be immersed in, complete with its own language, its crazily different sense of risk and its unique set of positive values. I learnt to care about Iris and Zeke, and to root for their future together, to honour their amazing maturity of outlook and their resilience, their talent and skill, and to get some sense of the sheer exhilaration and physical rush of surfing (I'll never be able to do it, so this is the next best thing). The story told in the novel has components of suspense in common with many another romance - uncertainty in a new relationship, jealousy, competition, a damaged ex-boyfriend, families..... - but all seen through the prism of an alternative culture and lifestyle - and some satisfying twists too. This novel is beautifully imagined, intensely visual and wonderfully written.


A Short Way From Home
A Short Way From Home
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars all beautifully crafted. I am so pleased to see that ..., 13 Jan. 2016
Short stories, all very different and original, all beautifully crafted. I am so pleased to see that fine examples of a shorter form of quality writing are available - sometimes, they just hit the spot. The setting is generally rural, with the emotional drama played out against the backdrop of a beautiful landscape. Add a little of the supernatural, and some affinity with horses, and it makes for an engaging and agreeable read.


Say it with Sequins: The Rumba: (A Novella)
Say it with Sequins: The Rumba: (A Novella)
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dancing to love, 26 Jan. 2014
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I really enjoyed this warm and witty novella. Georgia Hill brilliantly captures the thrills and the excitement of a reality dancing show, and her two leads are characters to love and to root for. First of a series - I'll definitely be back for the rest!


The Little Deli by the Lake
The Little Deli by the Lake
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lakeland magic, 20 Jun. 2013
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A great new read from Phillipa Ashley, with all the trademarks I've come to expect. Adam and Sophie have grown up together, though their family circumstances differ widely . Their teenage passion is brutally cut short by a shocking event, and it is ten years before an older, wiser, but no less gorgeous Adam returns to their home community in the Lake District, against his better judgement, directing a period drama on location. Sophie's life has changed too, but while Adam could escape, circumstances keep her back home, planning a different but no less fulfilling life for herself than she'd anticipated, building a deli and catering business with her new friend.

As ever, the pleasures in this novel lie in the great sense of place, with its Lakeland setting. Then there are the believable - and above all, likeable - characters, both hero and heroine and their foils, and as far as the plot is concerned, energy, wit and emotional authenticity. I have decided that life is possibly a bit too short to read more than a few romantic novels with repellant characters, and what I love about this one is that, however daft, misguided, self-deluding and sometimes plain wrongheaded people are from time to time, the essential attractiveness of their personality is there to be discovered under all that the plot can do to keep it hidden. The characters are layered, but at root there is an essential warmth and humanity. Great situations, convincingly described, with the arrival of a period drama production with its whole caravan, and the development of the gorgeously named 'Sticky Muffin' deli, lead to great set pieces, some funny, some dramatic.

Altogether, an excellent, page-turning read, underpinned by genuine emotional warmth. I am looking forward to the next title from Phillipa Ashley ... and the next. Declaration of interest time - through my admiration for her writing and her warm and witty novels I have become a friend of the author, and I feel that, for me, she has come up with something special in It Happened One Night.


The Physic Garden
The Physic Garden

38 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, moving and thought-provoking., 25 Mar. 2013
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This review is from: The Physic Garden (Kindle Edition)
As with all of Catherine Czerkawska's books, I read her new novel The Physic Garden at a stretch, so strong was the story and so authentic the voice of the first person narrator. And then I spent days dwelling on it, and more weeks thinking about it before I felt able to put my thoughts in order for a review.

The description of the book says it all about why that is. The pivotal tragedy is so poignant, so personal, and yet so loaded with significance for our lives today that it is almost too much for this reader to bear. The novel is set in Scotland, at the turn of the 18-19th century. Its setting is the old college of Glasgow University and the Physic Garden, where William Lang, the narrator, is learning the craft of gardening from his father and the discipline of medical botany from his mentor, Thomas Brown. These two strike up a rare friendship, until betrayal tears it apart and changes the lives of them both for ever.

This novel is about such important things - research and curiosity and learning about the world. It is about a particular time and place - Scotland in the Enlightenment - when human knowledge was advancing so quickly, a time and place that fascinate me for all sorts of personal reasons. The discipline that engages both Thomas and William is that of medicine, and the passion to understand the working of the human body in order to bring about health and combat disease. There is a softer side to this discipline - that of botany and the understanding of medicinal herbs and their uses, and that becomes William's forte; and the darker side, the study of anatomy, with all the implications of working with the body of someone who once was a living breathing human being. In ways that I won't elaborate for fear of spoiling, the novel explores this darker side, its human dilemmas and responsibilities, and its central tragedy goes to the heart of what we owe for our health, exactly to whom we owe it and how that comes about. The salient theme for me at the end was the price of knowledge.

So how to respond to a novel that turns the heart over to the extent that The Physic Garden does? I found reading it to be cathartic, as a true tragedy should be, in that it regulated my thinking and my emotions about a matter of great importance. This is a novel about two male protagonists - it is a patriarchal age, and the narrator is authentically part and parcel of it. The female characters are more shadowy, as seen, as you would expect, through the male eyes of the narrator-hero. One of these men is a hero in the genuine tragic sense of a good man destroyed by his flaws and brought low by a fall from grace, who sought to do good in the public realm, but did not relate that to his private morality. The other hero, the narrator - well, it is as a man of his time that he is able to reflect in a measure of tranquility on the terrible blow that struck his life into two parts. He too has experienced his own sort of catharsis.

In this novel, Catherine Czerkawska gives fuller rein to the darker strain of suffering that can mark the lives of her characters. The Physic Garden has all the hallmarks of her narrative gift - the lyricism of the prose, the vivid description of nature, art and artefacts, the believable setting and characters. It was not so much heart-warming for me this time, as challenging, heart-stirring and thought-provoking, and as ever brilliantly realised.


The Long and the Short of it.
The Long and the Short of it.

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great short stories followed by intriguing tasters, 14 Jan. 2013
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Five short stories, all very different and original, all beautifully crafted. I am so pleased to see that fine examples of a shorter form of quality writing are available - sometimes, they just hit the spot. The setting is generally rural, with the emotional drama played out against the backdrop of a beautiful landscape. Add a little of the supernatural, and some affinity with horses, and it makes for an engaging and agreeable read.

These are followed by tasters for three full length novels, tempting me to try them. Accomplished writing, that draws the reader into its world.


Stained Glass
Stained Glass
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4.0 out of 5 stars Unease lapping at the edges of reality, 27 Dec. 2012
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This review is from: Stained Glass (Kindle Edition)
I keep saying I'm not a great one for ghost stories, then finding ghost stories that I really enjoy - like these three short stories. I'm narrowing it down to preferring not to be made to jump out of my skin. But ghost stories that just hint at a parallel reality give a delicious frisson, I am finding, before depositing me back in the world that I know; but with imagination and experience stretched beyond the normal just that little bit.

These three tiny, elegant stories stretch the barrier between the real and the unreal, making just a little rent in it through which the reader can glimpse the strange and disturbing, from the past, or from another world. Recommended ghostly reading for the scaredy-cat reader!


A Bright Particular Star
A Bright Particular Star
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a great Regency read, 24 Dec. 2012
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A very enjoyable, page-turning Regency romance/adventure with a superb sense of place. It reminded me of 'Regency Buck' with its great road journey, all period detail intact. The suspense element was very well handled, with a super twist, and more fascinating geography, this time giving a wonderful sense of the growth of the London we know today.


The Cinderella Debutante (A Regency Romance)
The Cinderella Debutante (A Regency Romance)
Price: £2.21

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A delicious Regency set romance, 21 Dec. 2012
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This is a very enjoyable, pacy novel,with a regency setting, with a hero and heroine to love. Lucy Sinclair, the Cinderella figure in this story, is intelligent and brave and the best of company, but without material fortune. She is plagued with a silly stepmother and a vain and materialistic younger stepsister, whose fortune makes her prey to the wicked nobleman Lord Sneyd, and leads both sisters into danger. The handsome and courageous hero, the Viscount Devlyn, finds in Lucy his perfect match, her wit and intelligence proving a foil for his own. How they navigate misunderstanding and danger to find one another drives on this very agreeable historical romance, which has Elizabeth Hanbury's trademarks of wonderful period detail and the atmosphere and language to match.


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