Guest Review: The Shelly Bay Ladies Swimming Circle – Sophie Green

The Shelly Bay Ladies Swimming Circle

Sophie Green

Hachette AU

ISBN: 9780733641169

 

Description:

It’s the summer of 1982. The Man from Snowy River is a box office hit and Paul Hogan is on the TV.

In a seaside suburb of NSW, housewife Theresa Howard takes up swimming. She wants to get fit; she also wants a few precious minutes to herself. So at sunrise each day she strikes out past the waves.

From the same beach, the widowed Marie swims. With her husband gone, bathing is the one constant in her new life.

After finding herself in a desperate situation, 26-year-old Leanne only has herself to rely on. She became a nurse to help others, even as she resists help herself.

Elaine has recently moved from England. Far from home without her adult sons, her closest friend is a gin bottle.

In the waters of Shelly Bay, these four women find each other. They will survive shark sightings, bluebottle stings and heartbreak; they will laugh so hard they swallow water, and they will plunge their tears into the ocean’s salt. They will find solace and companionship in their friendship circle, and learn that love takes many forms.

 

Brenda’s Review:

By the ocean in the suburb of Shelly Bay in NSW, four women lived their lives. They didn’t know one another, but soon they would. Theresa, mother of two young children, a husband who never helped around the house and her Nonna all lived in one house; Elaine, originally from England where her two adult sons still resided moved to Shelly Bay with her Australian surgeon husband, James. Marie, widowed for the past five years had a quiet, lonely existence while Leanne kept her past locked away, working as a nurse in the local hospital.

Marie swam every day, whatever the season and when Theresa started her early morning swimming – to have some time for herself – she and Marie soon swam together. Elaine was the third to venture to the ocean and when Leanne, having recently learned to swim in the local pool, braved the water the group became four. Gradually the four different women became friends, shared secrets and heartache, were there for one another. Their friendship was the one constant in their lives; the ocean their solace.

After loving Aussie author Sophie Green’s The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club, I was really looking forward to The Shelly Bay Ladies Swimming Circle and it didn’t disappoint. A wonderful, heartfelt, feel-good, wrap-you-in-a-hug story, there is sadness, loss, happiness, love – but most of all friendship. Set in Australia, it begins in the summer of 1982, giving us the insights into four people’s lives over a period of two years. An absolute delight, The Shelly Bay Ladies Swimming Circle is one I highly recommend and I’m looking forward to seeing what Ms Green comes up with next. 5 stars.

With thanks to Hachette AU for my uncorrected proof ARC to read in exchange for an honest review.

Guest Review: Something in the Wine – Tricia Stringer

Something in the Wine

Tricia Stringer

Harlequin Enterprises (Australia) Pty Ltd

ISBN: 9781489261502

Description:

A warm-hearted rural romance set among the scenic vineyards of the Margaret River from bestselling author Tricia Stringer, the authentic voice of Australian storytelling. Reserved high school teacher Keely Mitchell is more than ready for her holiday on the west coast of Australia, so when a medical emergency turns over all her plans and an intervention by a kind stranger finds her recovering in a Margaret River vineyard, she is at first downcast.

Keely had wanted to put recent traumatic events out of her mind, and recuperating alone in a stranger’s house won’t help that. But slowly the lovely food, spectacular wine and beautiful landscape of the area begin to work their spell. As Keely makes friends with the locals and adapts to the rhythms of the vintner’s year, she starts to feel part of the scenery too, particularly when her artwork and jewellery-making somehow find a home at Levallier Dell Wines.

But clouds are on the horizon in the shape of a warring father and son, interfering family friends and a rival in love. Keely didn’t mean to fall for anyone, but she can’t help her feelings for clever, passionate wine-maker Flynn Levallier. Sadly, it seems he only has eyes for the beautiful Kat, daughter of a rival wine-maker. Can what Keely feels be real? Or is it just something in the wine?

Brenda’s Review:

Keely Mitchell was looking forward to her holiday in WA; to following her dreams and going where she wanted. But the day of her arrival in Perth, she had an unexpected medical emergency and it was only luck that had her remembering the note with the phone number in her jeans pocket. Heading to Margaret River was the last thing she thought she’d be doing, but recuperation was paramount and her respite at Levallier Dell Wines seemed fortuitous.

As Keely slowly regained her strength, her discomfort at the situation in the face of the father and son who quite obviously didn’t see eye to eye was enough to make her want to leave. But gradually, the beauty of the vineyard; the wine and food; the friendliness of the locals – all made Keely realise she loved the area. But of course she couldn’t stay. Her sketches and jewellery making kept her occupied, but she wasn’t sure it was enough.

Would Keely leave Levallier Dell with just her memories to add to her holiday experiences? Or was there more, much more that she could experience?

Another fabulous read from the pen of Aussie author Tricia Stringer! I thoroughly enjoyed Something in the Wine, as I have all this author’s work. Her descriptions are so well painted, even though I’ve never been to the area, I could visualize it all. I could see the volatile and passionate neighbour Theo; the gossiping café owner; the frustrations of both father and son – all written in an easy-to-read way. An excellent novel which I have no trouble recommending. 5 stars

With thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for my digital ARC to read in exchange for an honest review.

Guest Review: A Single Woman – Maggie Christensen

A Single Woman

Maggie Christensen

Cala Publishing

ASIN: B07PMV51JF

Description:

Isla Cameron. headmistress at an elite girl’s school in Glasgow, is determinedly single, adroitly avoiding all attempts at matchmaking by a close friend.

Widower Alasdair MacLeod is grieving for the wife he lost two years earlier, struggling as the single father of two teenagers, and frustrated by the well-meaning interference of his in-laws.

When a proposed school trip to France brings Isla and Alasdair together, they find a connection in the discovery that each is suffering the loss of a loved one, but neither is interested in forming a relationship,

As their friendship grows, Alasdair struggles with his increasing attraction to the elegant schoolmistress, while Isla harbours concerns about the complications a relationship with him would bring.

Can Alasdair overcome his natural reserve, and can Isla open her heart to love again?

Readers of Christensen’s earlier books, The Good Sister and Isobel’s Promise, will love reconnecting with Bel and Matt while enjoying Isla Cameron’s unique story.

Brenda’s Review:

Alasdair MacLeod’s grief over the death of his wife two years earlier felt all encompassing. His two teenage children, Fiona and Robbie coped with the loss of their mother in their own way, while Alasdair’s father-in-law Matt and his wife Bel helped the best they could. Fi belonged to an all girl’s school in Glasgow and idolized the headmistress, Isla Cameron who’d been in that position for the past ten years. Isla was happily single, living in a small flat with her cat Sooty, catching up with her best friend Shona now and then.

With a school trip to France on the agenda for a select few pupils, Fi was desperate to go along. Alasdair met with Isla to discuss the logistics – Fi was wheelchair bound, but if the French au pair accompanied them, Fi could join the trip. As Isla and Alasdair got to know one another, they both realized they had much in common. They both wanted companionship and friendship – but was Alasdair ready for a relationship? And did Isla want to give up her hard-won independence?

A Single Woman by Aussie author Maggie Christensen is loosely linked to The Good Sister and Isobel’s Promise, and it was wonderful to catch up with Bel and Matt, Alasdair’s children’s grandparents, again. This author’s characters are always so real; people who live next door; people we know and love. I thoroughly enjoyed A Single Woman and love the way Maggie writes about the older generation, with ease and aplomb. I’m already looking forward to this author’s next. Highly recommended. 5 stars

With thanks to the author for my digital ARC to read in exchange for an honest review.

Guest Review: The Land Girls – Victoria Purman

 

The Land Girls

Victoria Purman

Harlequin Enterprises (Australia) Pty Ltd

ISBN: 9781489273970

Description:

A moving story of love, loss and survival against the odds by bestselling author of The Last of the Bonegilla Girls, Victoria Purman.

It was never just a man’s war…

Melbourne,1942

War has engulfed Europe and now the Pacific, and Australia is fighting for its future. For spinster Flora Thomas, however, nothing much has changed. Tending her dull office job and beloved brother and father, as well as knitting socks for the troops, leaves her relatively content. Then one day a stranger gives her brother a white feather and Flora’s anger propels her out of her safe life and into the vineyards of the idyllic Mildura countryside, a member of the Australian Women’s Land Army.

There she meets Betty, a 17-year-old former shopgirl keen to do her bit for the war effort and support her beloved, and the unlikely Lilian, a well-to-do Adelaide girl fleeing her overbearing family and theworld’s expectations for her. As the Land Girls embrace their new world of close-knit community and backbreaking work, they begin to find pride in their roles. More than that, they start to find a kind of liberation. For Flora, new friendships and the singular joy derived from working the land offer new meaning to her life, and even the possibility of love.

But as the clouds of war darken the horizon, and their fears for loved ones – brothers, husbands, lovers – fighting at the front grow, the Land Girls’ hold on their world and their new-found freedoms is fragile. Even if they make it through unscathed, they will not come through unchanged…

Brenda’s Review:

With war across Europe, Australia’s men and women were joining the cause in droves. Flora’s younger brother Frank was fighting overseas and in Melbourne, she, her father and brother Jack worried constantly. Betty from Sydney worked in Woolworths and her next door neighbour and best friend, Michael joined up, heading overseas. And Lily from Adelaide was being courted by David so when he joined the air force to fight overseas, she wanted to do her bit for the war effort.

The Australian Women’s Land Army were calling for women to help out with the jobs men had always done. Shearing, picking grapes, apples, working on farms with the animals. All three young women – Flora, Betty and Lily – separately decided to become Land Army girls for the duration of the war. And as they worked their various roles in different parts of Australia, they met other women doing the same thing; making dear friends. Along the way, there was heartache and loss, sadness and tragedy – the relentless arrival of the dreaded telegram – but there was also growing maturity, pride in their work and independence among the women.

When Flora was once again at Two Rivers near Mildura, she learned two other Land Girls were arriving to help this season with the grapes. And so she met Betty and Lily. The three girls worked hard – the work was backbreaking, and the heat was never ending – all the while wondering if the war would ever end. And whether their loved ones would come home…

The Land Girls is a poignant story filled with heartache and hope, love and loss, as well as courage, grit and determination. Aussie author Victoria Purman has once again written a well-researched historical novel which I thoroughly enjoyed. I wasn’t aware of the Australian Women’s Land Army and the role the women played during the war. Many of the farms and properties simply wouldn’t have survived without the help of those wonderful women. Highly recommended. 5 stars

With thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for my digital ARC to read in exchange for an honest review.

Guest Review: The French Photographer – Natasha Lester

The French Photographer

Natasha Lester

Hachette AU

ISBN: 9780733640025

 

Description:

Inspired by the incredible true story of Lee Miller, Vogue model turned one of the first female war photojournalists, the new novel by the bestselling author of The Paris Seamstress

Manhattan, Paris, 1942: When Jessica May’s successful modelling career is abruptly cut short, she is assigned to the war in Europe as a photojournalist for Vogue. But when she arrives the army men make her life as difficult as possible. Three friendships change that: journalist Martha Gellhorn encourages Jess to bend the rules, paratrooper Dan Hallworth takes her to places to shoot pictures and write stories that matter, and a little girl, Victorine, who has grown up in a field hospital, shows her love. But success comes at a price.

France, 2005: Australian curator D’Arcy Hallworth arrives at a beautiful chateau to manage a famous collection of photographs. What begins as just another job becomes far more disquieting as D’Arcy uncovers the true identity of the mysterious photographer — and realises that she is connected to D’Arcy’s own mother, Victorine.

Crossing a war-torn Europe from Italy to France, The French Photographer is a story of courage, family and forgiveness, by the bestselling author of The Paris Seamstress and A Kiss from Mr Fitzgerald.

 

Brenda’s Review:

Jessica May’s modelling career stalled when she headed for Europe as a photojournalist in 1942. She was only allowed to the hospital camps – women couldn’t go near the front line – and while the male journalists had their own areas to send copy from, Jess and her friend Martha Gellhorn had to do the best they could. It would be the meeting by Jess of Dan Hallworth, paratrooper in charge of many men and well respected by those same men, that would change Jess’ ability within those pages of war, and the stories and pictures that would make a difference.

When Jess first met Victorine, a sweet little girl who was being cared for at one of the field hospitals, she soon grew to love her. The daily horrors and cruelty that surrounded them all were eased just slightly as she held Victorine in her arms. Other women photojournalists joined Jess and Martha, among them Lee Miller – their work essential, and what the censors didn’t cut out, made it to publication.

When Australian curator D’Arcy Hallworth arrived at the chateau in France in 2005 to collate the photographs of an unknown photographer, she had no idea the shattering changes which were about to overtake her life. Her disbelief when she saw a photo of her own mother in among the relics of the past had her doubting everything she’d known of her life. D’Arcy couldn’t understand the connection of her mother to this long ago past – and she wasn’t sure if she was brave enough to pursue it either…

The French Photographer is the latest by Aussie author Natasha Lester and it’s absolutely heartbreakingly brilliant! I can’t believe this author can continue to improve her books, time and again – but this one, in my opinion, is her best yet! Based on fact, the descriptions of the war years, the different characters which grew on me – Jennings was a sweetheart; Victorine a delight – and the others who were despicable but so well drawn. But the three main characters – Jess, Dan and Victorine – were so very special. The French Photographer is a wonderful historical fiction novel by an author who is right on top of her game – and I highly recommend it. 5 stars

With thanks to Hachette AU for my copy to read in exchange for an honest review.

Guest Review: Without A Doubt – Fleur McDonald

Without A Doubt

Without a Doubt

Fleur McDonald

Allen & Unwin

ISBN: 9781760633158

 

Description:

‘The entrance to Nundrew was like any country town Dave had ever been to. He revved the engine of the bike and upped his speed. That should get the attention of a few people as he flew down the main street.’

Detective Dave Burrows had never even heard of Nundrew in Queensland before. He’d certainly never have guessed that this was where he’d be risking his life.

In Barrabine, as Dave’s workload skyrockets, Melinda, Dave’s wife, is unhappy about being left alone so much to raise their eighteen-month-old daughter. It’s not how Dave wants it either, but crimes still have to be investigated – it’s what he joined the force for – and he’s the only one able to do it.

Melinda’s interfering father isn’t helping. He’s never thought that Dave is right for his daughter and he’s not shy about telling Dave what he’s doing wrong. When things come to a head at home, Dave’s policing mate, Spencer, comes up with a plan.

In the most dangerous mission of his life, Dave knows what he’s risking. If he’s found out, he’ll never see Melinda or Bec again. Of that he’s sure.

 

Brenda’s Review:

Detective Dave Burrows was settled into his life in Barrabine in Western Australia with his offsider Spencer having shown him the ropes. He loved the rural lifestyle, helping the locals and keeping law and order. The trouble was, his young wife was unhappy. Melinda hadn’t long had their daughter Bec, and although she was now eighteen months old, Melinda continued to be unsettled and restless about her life. Making it worse was the fact that her family lived in Perth and her father continued to put Dave down, insisting Melinda return to Perth with Bec to live with them. She was torn.

The day Spencer devised a way for Dave to get into the harsh realities of police work – even though it meant a move to Queensland – Dave knew it was the answer; temporarily at least. What he didn’t know was the very real danger he would put himself in. Nundrew was a small rural town in the Queensland outback. The force there was having some trouble – Dave was their answer. But could he find the trouble makers? Or would it be the last – and most dangerous – case he ever worked on?

Without a Doubt is another fabulous romantic suspense – high on the suspense – novel by Aussie author Fleur McDonald. I really enjoy Dave’s character; he’s a normal, down to earth guy, strong, tough and caring. He’s not shy in showing his love for his wife and little daughter, and prepared to do what it takes to fix his family problem. I hope the author doesn’t stop writing Detective Dave Burrows’ story any time soon! Highly recommended. 5 stars.

With thanks to Allen & Unwin for my uncorrected proof ARC to read in exchange for an honest review.

Guest Review: The House of Second Chances – Esther Campion

The House of Second Chances

Esther Campion

Hachette AU

ISBN: 9780733636172

 

Description:

Can a house heal heartache? From coastal Australia to the rugged beauty of Ireland, an enchanting novel of starting over, in the tradition of Maeve Binchy and Monica McInerney.

Their grandmother’s stone cottage was always a welcome retreat in the childhood summers of Ellen and Aidan O’Shea. After a trip home from Australia, Ellen is keen to bring the neglected home back to its former glory and enlists the help of her dear friend and one of Ireland’s top interior designers, Colette Barry.

Aidan is already begrudging the work on the house he has avoided for nearly twenty years. The last thing the builder needs is an interior designer who seems to do nothing but complicate his life. With their own personal heartaches to overcome, will Aidan and Colette find the courage to give the house and themselves a second chance?

 

Brenda’s Review:

Even though Ellen O’Shea had returned to South Australia after her visit to her home in Ireland, she knew her brother Aidan who was a builder, would continue the renovation of their grandmother’s stone cottage in West Cork. Ellen had taken her good friend, interior designer Colette Barry on board, and knew she would do an excellent job with the cottage. But Aidan didn’t want the added cost that came with Colette’s grandiose ideas.

While good friend Gerry Clancy was trying to obtain the visa he needed to join Ellen in Australia, Colette was busy at her interior designer company, Fabulous Four Walls, along with good friend and partner John. When Colette and Gerry joined Aidan at the West Cork cottage, she could see the potential and knew the house would have a second chance with all they could do. But she also wondered how she could work with the perpetually grumpy owner of the cottage. How could he be the brother of her best friend?

With troubled pasts and dark secrets, plus events with family and friends of an upsetting nature, was there a possibility of second chances and starting over? Would Aidan find happiness? Would Colette?

The House of Second Chances by Aussie author Esther Campion is the sequel to Leaving Ocean Road, and it was wonderful to catch up with Ellen, Aidan and Gerry once again. The story continues on from the ending of Leaving Ocean Road and was exceptionally well done, with the blending of known characters with new ones. The parts of Australia in the novel – Port Lincoln, Millicent, Mount Gambier, the Coorong – are places I know (I lived in Mount Gambier as a child); while Ireland is a place I haven’t been, but the descriptions of the countryside were delightful. I thoroughly enjoyed the novel and whipped through it in a matter of hours (who needs sleep?!) Highly recommended. 5 stars!

With thanks to Hachette AU for my ARC to read in exchange for an honest review.