The House Beneath the Cliffs by Sharon Gosling

I’m delighted that it’s finally my turn on the blog tour for Sharon Gosling’s The House Beneath the Cliffs. My grateful thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part and to TeamBATC for sending me a copy of the book in return for an honest review. It gives me enormous pleasure to share that review today.

Published by Simon and Schuster on 19th August 2021, The House Beneath the Cliffs is available for purchase through these links.

The House Beneath the Cliffs

A remote yet beautiful village. A tiny kitchen lunch club. The perfect place to start again.

Anna moves to Crovie, a tiny fishing village on the Moray Firth, for a fresh start. But when she arrives, she realises her new home is really no more than a shed, and the village itself sits beneath a cliff right on the edge of the sea, in constant danger of storms and landslides. Has she made a terrible mistake?

Yet as she begins to learn about the Scottish coast and its people, something she thought she’d lost reawakens in her. She rediscovers her love of cooking, and turns her kitchen into a pop-up lunch club. But not all the locals are delighted about her arrival, and some are keen to see her plans fail.

Will Anna really be able to put down roots in this remote and wild village? Or will her fragile new beginning start to crumble with the cliffs . . . ?

Beautiful, moving and utterly absorbing, The House Beneath the Cliffs is a novel of friendship and food, storms and secrets, and the beauty of second chances.

My Review of The House Beneath the Cliffs

Anna is starting a new phase in her life.

Oh yes! The House Beneath the Cliffs is exactly my kind of read and I couldn’t have loved it more because Sharon Gosling imbues her writing with genuine heart-felt emotion that draws in the reader and makes them care about her characters.

I adored meeting the cast of The House Beneath the Cliffs. The tiny close-knit community of Crovie means that each character is a distinct personality with every type represented, from the curmudgeonly Douglas McKean to the unselfish Frank, with Anna taking centre stage. Anna felt so real to me it was as if I knew her personally. Her previous life, her potential future and her present activities in Crovie held me spell bound. I wanted her to be happy, to succeed and leave the foul Geoff behind with every fibre of my being. Similarly, Auld Robbie was perfectly depicted. What I found so engaging was the way in which the whole community was presented. Sharon Gosling understands implicitly how small communities operate, with their mutual support and long held petty jealousies, their friendships and relationships, so that I felt I had been plunged into the heart of the place alongside Anna. The House Beneath the Cliffs also felt an authentic portrait of how such small communities have to live; with economic and environmental challenges that can threaten their very lives so that Crovie is every bit as much a character as any of the people. Indeed, there are some heart stopping moments in reading The House Beneath the Cliffs that are not just to do with romance!

The setting is glorious. I loved the seascapes painted by Sharon Gosling’s evocative writing and the references to food, to ecology and landscape all combine into a wonderful sense of place. The author knows exactly how much detail to provide to give the reader a vivid experience without ever slowing the pace of the plot, so that reading The House Beneath the Cliffs is an immersive and completely satisfying experience.

And it’s an equally fantastic plot. The story races along, encapsulating everything from the most prosaic to the most dramatic in a perfect balance of storytelling. I genuinely think The House Beneath the Cliffs is exactly the kind of book to appeal to any situation – from beach read to cosy winter’s afternoon by the fire because it sweeps the reader away from their real life so completely.

The themes in The House Beneath the Cliffs are sensitively handled, intelligently woven into the narrative and deeply affecting. The human need for connection and a sense of belonging underpins other concepts such as grief, parenthood, ambition, friendship, and opportunity so that there is resonance and appeal for all readers.

I thought The House Beneath the Cliffs was enchanting. It’s beautifully written and captivated me completely. I loved every second spent reading about Anna and Crovie. It’s a wonderful book, not to be missed.

About Sharon Gosling

Sharon Gosling lives with her husband in a very remote village in northern Cumbia, where they moved to run a second-hand bookshop, Withnail Books in Penrith. She began her career in entertainment journalism, writing for magazines in the science fiction and fantasy genre, before moving on to write tie-in books for TV shows such as Stargate and the ‘re-imagined’ Battlestar Galactica. She has also written, produced and directed audio dramas based in the same genre.

When she’s not writing, she creates beautiful linocut artwork and is the author of multiple children’s books. The House Beneath the Cliffs is her first adult novel.

You can follow Sharon on Twitter @sharongosling and Instagram or visit her blog.

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The Thin Line Between Everything and Nothing by Hannah Storm

My extremely grateful thanks to David Borrowdale at Reflex Press for sending me a copy of The Thin Line Between Everything and Nothing by Hannah Storm in return for an honest review. I don’t read nearly enough short fiction and it gives me great pleasure to share my review today.

Published by Reflex Press on 20th July, The Thin Line Between Everything and Nothing is available for purchase here, where you can also find a sample story.

The Thin Line Between Everything and Nothing

The Thin Line Between Everything and Nothing is a flash fiction collection that explores the fragility of human relationships and those unexpected meetings and moments that upend our familiar worlds.

In her debut collection, Hannah Storm takes us to far-off countries and cultures, offering the reader a glimpse of the stories behind easily forgotten headlines, blending them with myth and magic. It is here that we meet characters often pushed to the extreme, who remind us that we are all still animals – driven by instinct and a need for protection.

Woven throughout are the frequently difficult dynamics that disempower and define women and which transcend distance and cultures.

From this emerges an exploration of place and safety: how those environments we may fear as most hostile can bring us the greatest peace, while those that should promise comfort engender precisely the opposite.

My Review of The Thin Line Between Everything and Nothing

A selection of forty-nine short works of fiction.

If I’m honest, I picked up The Thin Line Between Everything and Nothing in between finishing one book and starting another because I thought it would be a quick read. What I hadn’t expected from Hannah Storm’s writing was the immediate emotional hit to the solar plexus that these stories provide. They are so impactful that I was completely taken aback, totally immersed in the worlds Hannah Storm presents and finished reading The Thin Line Between Everything and Nothing feeling personally changed as a result. The Thin Line Between Everything and Nothing was anything but a quick read because the stories deserved full attention and time to think about them and contemplate their obvious and implied meanings properly. I can imagine rereading this collection time and again and finding new concepts and significance.

The themes of The Thin Line Between Everything and Nothing are often quite uncomfortable as Hannah Storm does not shy away from images of repression, violation, submission and subjugation so that this collection lays bare the less salubrious side of life. Frequently, the women in these pieces suffer at the hands of men, with war crimes, domestic violence and betrayal as major motifs. However, this isn’t to say that The Thin Line Between Everything and Nothing is filled with misandry or is entirely negative. Instead, Hannah Storm’s words feel feminist and strong as women survive the most adverse conditions, often with a fierce, protective maternal instinct.

Peopled with vivid characters and featuring exotic as well as more prosaic locations, The Thin Line Between Everything and Nothing leads the reader into unfamiliar experiences, as well as those they can relate to, making this book an intense and affecting read. An iterative image of red in many of the pieces reverberates with desire and danger so that there’s a tension to be felt physically in reading them. At times I found the writing almost painfully beautiful.

I’m not sure I can say I enjoyed every aspect of The Thin Line Between Everything and Nothing because the writing is so powerful that I could feel the emotions of many of the characters and picture the scenes and situations they find themselves in so clearly that is wasn’t always a comfortable read. It was, however, exquisite, affecting, powerful and impactful. Hannah Storm crafts her words sublimely. I loved this collection.

About Hannah Storm

Hannah Storm is an award-winning writer of flash fiction. Her work won the ‘I Must Be Off!’ travel writing competition, placed second in the Bath Flash Fiction Award in 2020 and was highly commended in the TSS Flash Fiction Prize. She has been shortlisted for several other competitions and her stories have been published widely online and in print anthologies. Hannah began writing flash fiction after 20 years as a journalist travelling the world and her writing is tribute to the people she met in her work. She also writes creative non-fiction to process her own experiences and is working on a memoir. She has recently completed her first novel. Hannah lives in the UK with her family and by day runs a journalism charity and works as a media consultant specialising in gender, mental health and safety. The Thin Line Between Everything and Nothing is her first flash fiction collection.

You can follow Hannah on Twitter @HANNAHSTORM6.

The Affair by Hilary Boyd

My grateful thanks to Jen at Penguin for sending me a copy of The Affair by Hilary Boyd in return for an honest review. I’m delighted to share that review today. It’s far too long since I reviewed one of Hilary’s books. Then it was The Lavender House in a post you can read here.

Published by Penguin on 19th August 2021, The Affair is available for purchase through the links here.

The Affair

Connie McCabe longs for the summer where she spends the days leading tours across the continent.

But it’s on the glamorous shores of Lake Como where she is truly swept away, when Jared, a much younger man, falls for her.

Despite resisting his advances, Connie finds that he’s got under her skin.

And so begins a long, hot, intoxicating summer where Connie succumbs to temptation – breaking her marriage vows.

At the end of the season, Connie returns home to her husband, ready to put this affair behind her.

But Jared has other ideas . . .

My Review of The Affair

Connie is working away from home.

The Affair is exactly the kind of book to pick up for a holiday and escape into, not least because the first half in particular has such glorious descriptions of places and food, as Connie fulfils her tour guide role, that it frequently felt as if I were on holiday too. I love a book that can make me feel hungry!

That said, however, The Affair isn’t simply a light weight holiday read, because it deals with a serious and uncomfortable theme in Jared’s obsessive behaviour so that I finished The Affair feeling as if I had been given insight into a world I know little about. It’s difficult to explain too much for fear of spoiling the plot, but where I had willingly to suspend my disbelief as Jared’s behaviour seemed unreasonable, I rather think that says more about my personal experiences and less about the authenticity of the writing. I fear Hilary Boyd has created a world very convincingly that might be all too knowable for some. The story builds slowly, increasing in intensity with a dramatic ending that is so well crafted that The Affair draws in the reader by stealth, echoing Jared’s relationship with Connie so cleverly.

I found it interesting that I enjoyed The Affair whist really not liking any of the characters because I found the authentic way their behaviours were portrayed ensured I was convinced by them and frequently I didn’t like what they did! That said, I thought it was wonderful to have slightly older characters struggling with marriage and relationships, rather than the 30 somethings looking for their ideal partner of so many books. The Affair is a book of maturity. In particular, Devan’s struggle with retirement felt very genuine. Hilary Boyd gave me fascinating insight into Connie but I could not warm to her because I found her behaviour reprehensible. It intrigues me to find, however, that Hilary Boyd has the authorial power to manipulate me as a a reader into caring about what happened to Connie and Devon even when I found them dislikeable. I thought Jared was scarily plausible. Through him The Affair made me wonder just what happens in other people’s lives. I love it too when a book both entertains and makes me think.

Themes in The Affair also add to the sense of a mature read. Aside from the central premise, marriage and loyalty, love and desire, friendship and responsibility, passion and familiarity all combine into a very satisfying narrative.

Indeed, I found The Affair both entertaining and thought provoking. I very much enjoyed it.

About Hilary Boyd

Hilary Boyd was a nurse, marriage counsellor and ran a small cancer charity before becoming an author. She has written eight books, including Thursdays in the Park, her debut novel which sold over half a million copies and was an international bestseller.

For more information, follow Hilary on Twitter @HilaryBoyd , visit her website or find her on Facebook.

The Beloved Girls by Harriet Evans

My enormous thanks to Louise Swannell at Headline for sending me a surprise copy of The Beloved Girls by Harriet Evans and to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in this blog tour. With several of Harriet Evans’ books sitting on my shelf awaiting reading I’m thrilled to be able to share my review of The Beloved Girls today.  I also spoke about The Beloved Girls in a recent online event that you can view here.

Published on 19th August 2021, by Headline Review, The Beloved Girls is available for purchase through these links.

The Beloved Girls

‘It’s a funny old house. They have this ceremony every summer . . . There’s an old chapel, in the grounds of the house. Half-derelict. The Hunters keep bees in there. Every year, on the same day, the family processes to the chapel. They open the combs, taste the honey. Take it back to the house. Half for them -‘ my father winced, as though he had bitten down on a sore tooth. ‘And half for us.’

Catherine, a successful barrister, vanishes from a train station on the eve of her anniversary. Is it because she saw a figure – someone she believed long dead? Or was it a shadow cast by her troubled, fractured mind?

The answer lies buried in the past. It lies in the events of the hot, seismic summer of 1989, at Vanes – a mysterious West Country manor house – where a young girl, Jane Lestrange, arrives to stay with the gilded, grand Hunter family, and where a devastating tragedy will unfold. Over the summer, as an ancient family ritual looms closer, Janey falls for each member of the family in turn. She and Kitty, the eldest daughter of the house, will forge a bond that decades later, is still shaping the present . . .

‘We need the bees to survive, and they need us to survive. Once you understand that, you understand the history of Vanes, you understand our family.’

My Review of The Beloved Girls

Vanes is a place of secrets and bees.

I’m not quite sure how Harriet Evans achieved the effect but I was mesmerised by The Beloved Girls, Initially I didn’t warm to Catherine and I wasn’t sure if I was going to enjoy the book and then suddenly realised that I was totally entranced, drawn in to the story almost against my will until I found it stunning.

Harriet Evans’ writing is incredibly atmospheric. Beautifully crafted sentences are imbued with the senses so that the reader feels truly immersed in the story. I loved the structure of the book because the way the past has impacted on the present is uncovered gradually, affording the reader insight into characters and almost making those readers part of the story too. The references to music in particular brought so many memories back to me as I read that The Beloved Girls felt part of the fabric of who I am. I found this effect both compelling and unnerving. The hot summer of 1989 adds menace and passion so that the entire narrative is overlaid with mystery and suspense.

It’s always difficult to review plot without spoilers but bees, and the Vanes tradition of sharing honeycomb with them, are at the heart of the story. With the sweetness of honey and the potential sting of the bee The Beloved Girls reverberates with threat and potential whilst illustrating the importance of bees in today’s society both on a literal and metaphorical level. The Beloved Girls somehow manages to be a book belonging to now, but also it feels as if it is steeped in tradition and literary heritage too, making it a joy to read.

The themes make The Beloved Girls incredibly impactful because Harriet Evans weaves so much into her narrative that life, death and everything in between is represented here. This gives sumptuous depth but never gets in the way of fabulous storytelling. Family, friendship, relationships of many kinds, identity, trust, tradition, society, crime, education, social class, ambition and so on form their own interlinked honeycomb of meaning in The Beloved Girls making for a very satisfying read.

All the characters are completely authentic to the extent that I felt a strong emotional response to even the most minor of them. I loathed Charles and Giles with a white hot intensity and felt overwhelming concern for Janey, Kitty and Sylvia. In fact, I found that even though men have dominance in the Vanes world, The Beloved Girls is actually quite a feminist book. Harriet Evans does not shy away from difficult topics in her story but she still gives power to her females in a persuasive manner.

From being uncertain at the start, I ended up loving The Beloved Girls. It’s beautifully written, perfectly crafted storytelling at its very best. Don’t miss it.


There’s a Spotify playlist for The Beloved Girls here.

About Harriet Evans

Harriet Evans has sold over a million copies of her books. She is the author of twelve bestselling novels, most recently the Sunday Times Top Ten bestseller The Garden of Lost and Found, which won Good Housekeeping’s Book of the Year, and The Wildflowers, which was a Richard & Judy Book Club selection. She used to work in publishing and now writes full time, when she is not being distracted by her children, other books, crafting projects, puzzles, gardening, and her much-loved collection of jumpsuits. She lives in Bath, Somerset.

For further information, follow Harriet on Twitter @HarrietEvans, or find her on Facebook and Instagram.

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Dear Grace by Clare Swatman

Having loved Before You Go by Clare Swatman, I broke my self-imposed blog tour ban to participate in the launch celebrations for Clare’s latest book Dear Grace. My enormous thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours  for inviting me to take part.

You’ll find my review of Before You Go here. I was also privileged to interview Clare about her novel, The Mother’s Secret and to review it in a post you’ll find here.

Published in paperback on 12th August, Dear Grace is available for purchase here.

Dear Grace

The most unlikely friendship. The most unexpected consequences.

When Anna’s husband cheats on her, she’s sure she’ll never be happy again. But then she meets 94-year-old Grace. Despite an age gap of more than fifty years, the pair set out together on a life-changing journey halfway across the country in search of some answers.

Sometimes the only way to move on is to revisit the past. But will Anna and Grace be prepared for what they find?

A story about love, female friendship, heartbreak and learning to forgive.

My Review of Dear Grace

Anna is divorcing her husband.

Dear Grace was a total treat of a read, being charming, uplifting and engaging. I felt as if I’d been given time out from a stressful world to discover three wonderful people whom I thoroughly enjoyed meeting.

The plot in Dear Grace is relatively gentle with few great dramas and this is its absolute success. Clare Swatman lays out exactly the kind of life and experience anyone can relate to so that Dear Grace feels authentic, realistic and all the more engaging as a result. I felt very much as if I’d been given a snapshot of real lives that began before I met the characters and would continue after I closed the pages.

The fact that Dear Grace revolves (with a couple of more minor characters like Julia) mostly around Anna, Grace and Tom gives it a beautiful intimacy. I loved all three characters and, rather like Grace, wanted more to develop between Anna and Tom because Clare Swatman made me care about them as real people. Their suspicions about one another, their misunderstandings and their developing acceptance of each other gave Anna and Tom a vivacity I loved. But for me, it was Grace who stole the show. At 95 her resilience and feistiness illustrate that old age does not have to mean life is over. Through her friendship with Anna and the outings they go on Clare Swatman shows us just how much there is to enjoy at so many levels in life. Grace also exemplifies how our past might shape us but that it doesn’t have to control us so that I felt Dear Grace was a positive and enlightening narrative.

The themes are gorgeous. There’s love, including romantic love, but also enduring, unrequited, familial, and platonic, making for a really satisfying read. Add in the concepts of memory, identity, mental health, care for the elderly and personal response to adversity and the challenges we are presented with in life, and Dear Grace has depth and interest that I wasn’t initially expecting. The exploration of friendship across generations is so important and I feel Dear Grace could be the panacea the world needs.

With Clare Swatman’s smooth authorial style and naturalistic dialogue I was captivated throughout, but I especially enjoyed the Lowestoft setting as it is brilliantly depicted. I could picture it perfectly in my mind’s eye so that reading Dear Grace was akin to taking a small holiday too – with sun, rain and wind so common in the UK!

Readers wanting high drama, visceral crime and psychological twists should look elsewhere than Dear Grace, but those looking for a book that feels right; warm, caring and able to ameliorate the woes of the world, will love it. Although there is sadness and regret as well as happiness and joy in Dear Grace, I loved it because it made me feel happy and as if the world is a better place. I really recommend it.

About Clare Swatman

Clare Swatman is an author and journalist. She has had two previous novels published, with her debut, Before You Go, selling in 22 territories around the world. She has also spent 20 years writing for women’s magazines in the UK.

Her latest novel, Dear Grace, is inspired by her love of Lowestoft, the town where she spent many happy holidays with her late grandparents.

Clare lives in Hertfordshire in the UK with her husband and two boys. Even the cat is male, which means she’s destined to be outnumbered forever.

For more information, visit Clare’s website, follow her on Twitter @clareswatman, or find her on Instagram and Facebook.

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In Youth is Pleasure by Denton Welch

I confess that, had Matt Hutchinson at Penguin Random House not sent me a copy of In Youth Is Pleasure by Denton Welch in return for an honest review, I would never have heard of it! That said, I’m delighted to share my review today.

Originally published in 1945, this edition of In Youth Is Pleasure was published by Penguin Classics on 1st July 2021 and is available for purchase through the links here.

In Youth Is Pleasure

Orvil Pym does not fit in. A waifish, eccentric, sensitive fifteen-year-old, he hates school and longs to be alone. Spending his Summer holidays in a genteel Surrey hotel with his mysterious father and two brothers who don’t understand him, he explores ancient churches, spies on a man rowing in the river and collects antiques, escaping into his own singular aesthetic world. First published in 1945, this is an unforgettable portrayal of a young man’s sensuous coming-of-age.

My Review of In Youth Is Pleasure

The summer of 15 year old Orvil Pym’s life.

In Youth Is Pleasure is an astonishing read. Very much grounded in its era, with genteel hotels and societal manners, it also resonates in today’s society with absolute relevance. I found it intense, insightful and unique.

Orvil Pym is an incredibly vibrant character. His burgeoning homosexuality, his sensitive reactions to the world around him and his desperate loneliness and separation from those who know him, make him utterly fascinating and deserving of pity in the true sense of the word, whilst simultaneously generating admiration from the reader. I felt I had come to know him intimately. However, equally as effective as the depiction of this young boy was my increased awareness of the world around me seen through Orvil’s eyes and perceptions. I felt I had been given privileged access to a vivid world I would otherwise have missed in reading In Youth Is Pleasure.

Denton Welch presents the world with thrumming sensuousness and sensuality because of the magnificent use of the sense in his writing. Whilst much of the description comes through Orvil’s vivid and frequently disturbing imagination, there’s such richness in the text that In Youth Is Pleasure gives the reader a heightened awareness too. Alongside the descriptions is great violence and tenderness so that In Youth Is Pleasure feels balanced, nuanced and affecting. The writing is mesmerising.

The plot, however, is simple; Orvil spends a few weeks in an hotel and staying with a boy from his school. Much of what we read is prosaic as he visits a church, or rides a borrowed bicycle, but that belies the intensity of the narrative and the beauty of the language Denton Welch employs. In Youth Is Pleasure is a masterclass in emotion, in coming of age and in identity.

With themes of sexuality, family, friendship, abuse, education, violence and tenderness In Youth Is Pleasure left me reeling and actually feeling rather inadequate because I so admired the quality of Denton Welch’s prose.

I finished In Youth Is Pleasure thinking I have been given exclusive access to a gay icon, to a world I know little about and to a brilliance of writing I can only envy. It’s a remarkable book.

About Denton Welch

Denton Welch was born in 1915 in Shanghai, the youngest of three brothers. After attending boarding school in England, he enrolled at Goldsmiths’ School of Art in April 1933 to study painting. In June 1935, while still a student, he was involved in a cycling accident that left him bedridden for the rest of his life, and he turned to writing instead of painting. He died in December 1948, at the age of 33.

The Promise of Summer by Bella Osborne

I’ve long been meaning to read Bella Osborne because I’ve heard such good things about her writing so when El at Avon Books sent me a copy of The Promise of Summer in return for an honest review I was determined not to let it languish on my huge TBR. I’m delighted to share my review of The Promise of Summer today.

The Promise of Summer was published by Harper Collins’ imprint Avon on 22nd July 2021 and is available for purchase through these links.

The Promise of Summer

The Promise of Summer was originally published as a four-part serial. This is the complete story in one package.

Ruby’s life is about to change for ever…

After years of dating losers, cheats and one guy who did something unrepeatable to her kettle, Ruby has all but given up on romance. But then a stranger sits next to her on a train to London and explains his plan to propose to the woman of his dreams. Maybe true love does exist after all?

When the man accidentally leaves the engagement ring behind, Ruby is determined to save the day. But she hasn’t counted on fellow passenger Curtis stepping in and insisting he should be the one to track the stranger down.

As summer closes in, the unlikely pair make a promise to reunite the ring with its owner. But can they find their own happy ever after along the way?

My Review of The Promise of Summer

Ruby has a plan!

What an absolute treat of a book. I was expecting a light and uplifting read in The Promise of Summer and that’s what I got, but I hadn’t expected it to be so funny. I chuckled my way through many of the events and a considerable amount of the dialogue – especially that between Ruby and Curtis – so that when I finished reading The Promise of Summer I felt cheered and happy. It is enormous fun and I’d defy anyone reading The Promise of Summer not to be brilliantly entertained.

Certainly there are some weightier themes underpinning the narrative that add depth and interest, such as grief, friendship, marriage, ageing, relationships, trust and betrayal, not to mention various forms of parenthood, but it is the lightness of touch from Bella Osborne that makes The Promise of Summer such a wonderful read.

The plot simply romps along, returning the reader to their own childhood days, and reminding them of past relationships and of how to find fun in life as well as entertaining them thoroughly with laugh out loud moments, a tear in the eye and, for me, a feeling of total joy. Bella Osborne knows exactly how to create a vivid scene in the reader’s mind so that I could picture what was happening perfectly as if I were watching it on a screen or actually present. I genuinely felt as if I’d been transported from the challenges of life reading The Promise of Summer.

Whilst I thoroughly enjoyed the subplot of Kim’s life and her relationships with Vince and Adrian, it was Ruby and Curtis who were so utterly fantastic. Ruby is absolute perfection. She’s vibrant, quirky, down-to-earth, and ever so slightly bonkers so that I felt I’d have loved to meet her in real life. Add in the conventional and emotionally stunted Curtis and they counter-balance one another wonderfully. I was desperate for them to develop a romantic relationship from the moment they met but of course, life doesn’t always go to plan does it? What I found so compellingly engaging was the way their friendship developed, illustrating that letting down our emotional guards and finding out about other people is no bad idea. Whether anything more develops between them needs you to read the book for yourself!

I could not have enjoyed The Promise of Summer more and thought it was wonderful. It is pure sunshine in a book. What more could you ask? I adored it and only wish I’d discovered Bella Osborne’s writing sooner.

About Bella Osborne

Bella has been jotting down stories as far back as she can remember but decided that 2013 would be the year that she finished a full length novel.

In 2016, her debut novel, It Started At Sunset Cottage, was shortlisted for the Contemporary Romantic Novel of the Year and RNA Joan Hessayon New Writers Award.

Bella’s stories are about friendship, love and coping with what life throws at you. She likes to find the humour in the darker moments of life and weaves these into her stories. Her novels are often serialised in four parts ahead of the full book publication.

Bella believes that writing your own story really is the best fun ever, closely followed by talking, eating chocolate, drinking fizz and planning holidays.

She lives in The Midlands, UK with her lovely husband and wonderful daughter, who thankfully, both accept her as she is (with mad morning hair and a penchant for skipping).

For more about Bella, visit her website, follow her on Twitter @osborne_bella and Instagram or find her on Facebook.

The Therapist by Helene Flood

I’m enormously grateful to Milly Reid at Quercus for sending me a copy of The Therapist by Helene Flood in return for an honest review. It gives me great pleasure to share that review today. I also spoke about The Therapist in a recent online event that you can view here.

Published by Maclehose on 8th July 2021, The Therapist is available for purchase through the links here.

The Therapist

At first it’s the lie that hurts.

A voicemail from her husband tells Sara he’s arrived at the holiday cabin. Then a call from his friend confirms he never did.

She tries to carry on as normal, teasing out her clients’ deepest fears, but as the hours stretch out, her own begin to surface. And when the police finally take an interest, they want to know why Sara deleted that voicemail.

To get to the root of Sigurd’s disappearance, Sara must question everything she knows about her relationship.

Could the truth about what happened be inside her head?

Translated from the Norwegian by Alison McCullough.

My Review of The Therapist

Sigurd is missing.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Therapist, not least because the excellent translation by Alison McCullough is smooth and effortless to read. The first person narrative gives an intensity and intimacy that draws in the reader and places them in Sara’s position whilst making them wonder how reliable a narrator she might be. I found this technique very effective.

The plot is meticulously crafted and totally plausible whilst twisting and entertaining completely so that The Therapist held my attention unwaveringly and I devoured the book over a couple of days because I couldn’t set it aside. As the narrative reaches the denouement, and threads are drawn together, the reader understands just how intelligently and skilfully The Therapist has been plotted. With careful attention to detail, the reader can become every bit the detective that Gunderson has to be in solving the case. However, I wasn’t up to the job and I didn’t guess all the reveals which added to my immense enjoyment. It’s always difficult to review plots for fear of spoilers but let me simply say I loved this one!

The narrative really revolves around Sara although there are plenty of minor characters adding interest too. I found it fascinating that, although Sara didn’t especially gain my empathy, she held my attention completely. The psychology that underpins her character and her role in the book is utterly compelling. I felt a kind of hypnotic obsession with what happened to Sara and her responses to those events. Actually, it’s slightly unnerving because it felt as if I were somehow being assessed at the same time as enjoying a cracking story. I think the success of The Therapist lies in the fact that it can be read on so many levels, especially because of the authority of the psychological aspects Helene Flood uses.

The themes of The Therapist are universal so that there is something for everyone to relate to. How well we ever really know those we love is central, but family and friendship, truth and honesty, marriage and relationships, loneliness and ambition are woven in so intricately that I think the book would reward many, many readings. I found Helen Flood’s treatment of her themes through Sara’s eyes totally absorbing, especially with regard to the minutiae of life. Small details are huge clues and we just need to look more observantly to find them.

I’m aware that this review is somewhat ambiguous, because I don’t want to inadvertently to spoil the book for others. Let me simply say I thought The Therapist was excellent. I resented time spent away from it when I was reading and finished The Therapist feeling as if I’d been brilliantly, effectively and authentically entertained – and not a little manipulated! Don’t miss this one.

About Helene Flood

Helene Flood is a psychologist who obtained her doctoral degree on violence, revictimization and trauma-related shame and guilt in 2016. She now works as a psychologist and researcher at the National Centre for Violence and Traumatic Stress.

She lives in Oslo with her husband and two children.

The Therapist is her first adult novel. It has been sold in 27 counties and film rights have been bought by Anonymous Content. Her second novel, The Lover, will be published in English in 2022.

You’ll find Helene on Instagram and Facebook.

Staying in with Caroline Grace-Cassidy

My enormous thanks to Janne Moller at Black and White publishing for inviting me to participate in the blog tour for The Unexpected Love Story of Lexie Byrne (aged 39 1/2) by Caroline Grace-Cassidy and for putting me in touch with Caroline so that we could stay in together.

Staying in with Caroline Grace-Cassidy

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Caroline.

Hi Linda! Thanks for having me! I’m coming to you from Barna – a little fishing village in Co. Galway here the sea is roaring this morning.

How wonderful. Thank you for agreeing to stay in with me.

I LOVE staying in. It’s my new favourite thing! Pre-Covid I was always running around – I’ve learned to slow down – realised that I actually love the couch, TV – a good book and a little glass of something nice in the evenings.  Much more fun!

I’m beginning to think I agree! So, tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?

The Unexpected Love Story of Lexie Byrne (aged 39 1/2) is the book I’ve brought. It’s my new novel and it’s been a blast to write it. It was published on the 12th August by Black & White Publishing, and I’d like to think it’s perfect company for a night in.

Belated happy publication day! What can we expect from an evening in with The Unexpected Love Story of Lexie Byrne (aged 39 ½)?

I’ve wanted to write about a women approaching 40 for a while … to change the narrative about what society expects for us. There is a lot to love and laugh about in this book. Even though Lexie is single and almost 40, she has refused to settle for anything less than ‘the one’.

Quite right too!

Lexie has seen too many people say “I DO” just because, well, “HE’LL DO”.

I think Lexie has a point there!

Men never have to settle. They can procreate into their 70’s! They are considered “a catch” or “distinguished”, but society always tells women over 40 to HURRY UP! TIME IS RUNNING OUT! – when in fact life begins at 40!

I think life can begin at whatever age we want actually…

There is a whole world to explore – Lexie knows this and is happy and content by herself.

So, is Lexie avoiding men?

No. As Lexie says herself: “I don’t need a man, I want a man.” Big difference.


Then on the one night she really doesn’t want to go out …. She meets HIM.

I think this sounds great fun. What inspired you to write The Unexpected Love Story of Lexie Byrne (aged 39 ½)?

The book is highly influenced by DIRTY DANCING. I remember my 16-year-old self watching the movie for the first time and just fell utterly, deeply, head over heels in love with Johnny Castle. That visceral chemistry he had with Baby and the background of steamy Latin dance was HOT! HOT! HOT!

Hmm. Dare I say I’ve never actually seen Dirty Dancing?

Lexie is obsessed with the movie, too – it pushes her to reaffirm her belief in waiting for the one and not settling for second-best. Even if it’s not quite as smooth sailing as she’d expected 😉

True love never is!

 What else have you brought along and why have you brought it?

I have brought my all-time favourite food – Pil Pil Prawns and large hot crusty bread roll to dip. A sumptuous treat for any night in!

Oo. If you’re brining food like that Caroline, you can come again. 

You never go wrong with a freezing cold glass of Pinot Grigio (just as Lexie loves it!). It’s the perfect way to wind down after a busy day.

Ah well, I don’t drink wine as it seems to make me ill so I’ll leave that to you and get myself a Mai Tai instead. I think we need some music too don’t you?

Well, there is only one winner here – the Dirty Dancing soundtrack! No matter which mood I am in when I start listening to it, I will feel instantly fabulous and happy.

Let’s listen to that as we eat then.

In an ideal world, I’d love to bring the actual characters of Baby and Bridget Jones! But if I can’t have them then Jennifer Grey and Renee Zellweger. Just imagine that conversation!!

I think we’d have some fun with them don’t you? Thanks so much for staying in with me to chat about The Unexpected Love Story of Lexie Byrne (aged 39 ½) Caroline. Now, you pour yourself another glass of wine, turn up the music and I’ll give Linda’s Book Bag readers a few more book details.

The Unexpected Love Story of Lexie Byrne (aged 39 ½ )

An irresistible love story . . . delivered with sparkle and wit (in a too-tight red dress!)

Meet Lexie Byrne. The big 4-0 is looming, but she’s perfectly content without a man. How else could she watch movies on repeat and eat crisp sandwiches in bed? Finally free of her love-rat ex, she’s never settling again. Nothing less than ‘The One’ will do.

Then, after an electrifying encounter on a wild St Patrick’s Day, Lexie takes a leap of faith and a flight across the Irish Sea. But as sparks fly, Lexie’s dreams take a serious nosedive. Until an arrival no one anticipated . . .

Will the unexpected love story of Lexie Byrne have a happy ending after all?

Published by Black and White on 12th August 2021, The Unexpected Love Story of Lexie Byrne (aged 39 ½) is available for purchase here.

About Caroline Grace-Cassidy

Irish writer and actress Caroline Grace-Cassidy is the author of eight novels. Alongside her husband Kevin, they own Park Pictures, a film and television production company, with whom she has written and directed seven short films. She has been a regular panelist for The Elaine Show on Virgin Media One since She can often be spotted in dark sunglasses and a cap at the bottle bank – but mostly she is a very proud Mammy to Grace and Maggie Cassidy. She lives and loves in Dublin.

For more information visit Caroline’s website, find her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @CGraceCassidy.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

My Name is Jensen by Heidi Amsinck

It was a real pleasure to find a surprise copy of My Name is Jensen by Heidi Amsinck in my book post a couple of months ago. My grateful thanks to the folk at Muswell Press for sending me a copy. I recently spoke about the book online (see here) and I’m delighted to share my review today.

Published by Muswell Press on 31st August, My Name is Jensen is available for purchase here.

My Name is Jensen

Guilty. One word on a beggar’s cardboard sign. And now he is dead, stabbed in a wintry Copenhagen street, the second homeless victim in as many weeks. Dagbladet reporter Jensen, stumbling across the body on her way to work, calls her ex lover DI Henrik Jungersen.

As, inevitably, old passions are rekindled, so are old regrets, and that is just the start of Jensen’s troubles. The front page is an open goal, but nothing feels right…..

When a third body turns up, it seems certain that a serial killer is on the loose. But why pick on the homeless? And is the link to an old murder case just a coincidence?

With her teenage apprentice Gustav, Jensen soon finds herself putting everything on the line to discover exactly who is guilty.

My Review of My Name is Jensen

Finding a homeless person stabbed to death is just the start of Jensen’s problems.

I had absolutely no idea what to expect when I picked up My Name is Jensen, but what I found was a gripping, fast paced thriller with the potential for a series that I cannot wait to read.

My Name is Jensen is incredibly well crafted. The writing is varied with a range of sentence structure that I found utterly compelling because it pulled me in completely, especially when blended with naturalistic dialogue and a real sense of place in Copenhagen. The snowy weather adds to the atmosphere so that My Name is Jensen deserves a place with the best of Scandi Noir writing. Add in short, pacey chapters and there’s a real thrill in reading this book.

I loved the plot. The times and dates in My Name is Jensen give an immediacy that elevates the tension, and events come with great pace. It thoroughly appealed to me that the murders have sufficient detail to engage the reader without extraneous gore because Heidi Amsinck has the skill to move and entertain without resorting to shock tactics.

Whilst there is a conventional police investigation in My Name is Jensen as the body count increases, what I enjoyed so much was journalist Jensen’s parallel efforts to find out what is going on. As the exciting story unfolds, we come to know Jensen really well, to the extent that it is difficult to accept she’s a fictional character. I loved the fact she is only known as Jensen. There’s no diluting of her identity, but rather the creation of an intriguing person who is fascinating. I wanted –  and want – to know more about her. She’s the perfect combination of feisty and vulnerable, careful and reckless, stubborn and caring so that her personality leaps from the page. Similarly, the supporting cast of characters like Henrik, Gustav and Margrethe are people I really want to meet again. I’m not usually interested in investing in a series as there are always so many books to read and so little time in which to do it,  but Heidi Amsinck has created a set of people I care about and want to meet again as soon as possible. The frisson of sexual tension between Jensen and Henrik adds another layer of interest, but never over dominates the story so that their relationship feels vivid and natural.

The themes that slip beneath the surface of the narrative too are recognisable and thought provoking.  Relationships at many levels from marital to professional, including friendship and family, afford the reader personal or vicarious hooks into the story, but Heidi Amsinck doesn’t shy away from bigger themes too such as the plight of the homeless, mental health, immigration, the power of money and status and so on, so that whilst I felt I’d been brilliantly entertained by My Name is Jensen, I also felt I’d been given an intelligent, considered and high quality story too.

I thought My Name is Jensen was an absolute cracker of a thriller. I was desperate to see how the story would be resolved but simultaneously didn’t want it to end because I was enjoying it so much. I fear it might be a quiet book as it comes from a smaller independent publisher, but I think My Name is Jensen shouldn’t be missed. I’m very much looking forward to more from Heidi Amsinck – and Jensen.

About Heidi Amsinck

Heidi Amsinck, a writer and journalist born in Copenhagen, spent many years covering Britain for the Danish press, including a spell as London Correspondent for the broadsheet daily Jyllands-Posten. She has written numerous short stories for radio, including the three-story sets Danish Noir, Copenhagen Confidential and Copenhagen Curios, all produced by Sweet Talk for BBC Radio 4.

A graduate of the MA in Creative Writing at Birkbeck, University of London, Heidi lives in London.

She was previously shortlisted for the VS Pritchett Memorial Prize. Last Train to Helsingør is her first published collection of stories. Her crime novel My Name is Jensen, set in Copenhagen, will be published in August 2021.

For more information, follow Heidi on Twitter @HeidiAmsinck1. You can also find Heidi on Instagram and Facebook.