Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #WomensFiction Bella Toscana by Nanette Littlestone

Today’s team review is from Cathy, she blogs here

#RBRT Review Team

Cathy has been reading Bella Toscana by Nanette Littlestone


Toscana Blake has an organised, if not perfect, life. She’s content in her marriage to Jackson. Acknowledging the fact it may not be a passionate union, Toscana feels a deep affection for her husband and appreciates the life they have. The only stumbling block is the future of Dolcielo, her bakery business. Much is riding on her visit to the Chocolate Festival in Rome and whether it can open doors for her and her delicious sounding chocolate brownies. Regardless of that, she’s looking forward to seeing her much loved aunt and uncle.

Before the trip though, she and Jackson celebrate her fiftieth birthday at a favourite Italian restaurant. That night Toscana has a disturbing and vivid dream of an unknown lover. Then at the last moment Jackson is unable to make the trip to Rome due to work related issues, so after some deliberation and urging from Jackson and her best friend, Toscana decides to go alone.

While wandering through the streets, after checking into her hotel and having a restorative nap, Toscana stops to look at the ruins of the Temple of Vesta. It’s there that the visions start in earnest.

A chance meeting sets Toscana on a path of discovery. Her ordered life is thrown into chaos and uncertainty. Toscana’s struggle between following her head or heart was realistically portrayed—it’s a choice between staying with the familiar and comfortable or taking a leap of faith into the unknown.

The fascinating historical details and wonderful descriptions of a past and present Rome (not to mention the food—lots of it!) conjure vivid imagery and a strong sense of culture and place, added to by the picturesque representation of the Italian countryside. I enjoyed the themes of reincarnation and spirituality and how they were the foundation and heart of the story. The past life flashbacks and present were woven together as Toscana finds herself on an unexpectedly challenging journey, one of serious consideration, possibilities and potential.

I didn’t realise until after I’d read it that this is a sequel, but it can easily be read as a stand alone.

Book description

An explosive yearning that can’t be denied
Disturbing visions from an ancient past
A mysterious stranger that somehow feels familiar

On the night of her fiftieth birthday, the comfortable ride of Toscana’s life takes an alarming plunge. Haunted by seductive visions, she tries to push aside the desire and focus on the husband who adores her. Then she falls for Flynn, a younger man with an eye for adventure and a heart full of romance, who leaves her doubting everything she’s believed about love and passion.

In Atlanta, Rome, and the lush scenery of Tuscany, Toscana searches for answers to the mysteries of her life while she faces her biggest question. If she listens to her feelings will she lose everything she holds dear, or does her heart hold the key to love and joy?

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Cosy #Mystery Hide Not Seek by @dehaggerty

Today’s team review is from Cathy, she blogs here

#RBRT Review Team

Cathy has been reading Hide Not Seek by D. E. Haggerty


In this third book in The Not So Reluctant Detectives series Terri, Mel and newest member of the trio, mild mannered Prudence Webber, find themselves solving another mystery, this time concerning Pru and a stalker/murderer.

Pru hasn’t shared her experience with stalkers with her friends, or anyone else for that matter. She’s pushed her previous life to the back of her mind, where she thought it would stay. She had been prepared for an isolated life after she had relocated and had no thought of meeting women who would become friends, much less two who would become so close in a relatively short time.

Pru had no intention of pursuing a romantic relationship with a man either, no matter how much she likes Ajax, the gym teacher at the school where she works. Especially now she’s receiving threatening notes. Her past seems to have caught up with her and she needs to leave, find a new place. The thought of bringing trouble to her friends doesn’t bear thinking about. Ajax however, had no intention of letting Pru run away. He was determined to help and protect her. He’d found the girl he wanted to spend the rest of his life with.

‘He paused as if to give her a chance to respond. She didn’t. She couldn’t. She wasn’t going to tell him what had happened. She was never telling anyone the story again. She’d been forced to tell the story too many times to count. Fat lot of good it had done’.

Pru hadn’t counted on the determination of her friends to unravel the mystery and the unwavering support they gave her. Terri and Mel having private investigator and police partners respectively doesn’t hurt and goes a long way in helping to straighten things out with the Milwaukee police force. Not wanting to wait for things to go through the proper channels, the three women begin their own investigation.

Another entertaining, fast paced and dialogue driven read in this cozy mystery series. The three women have distinctly different characters and have real issues, such as Mel’s ADD and Pru’s shyness and lack of self confidence. I like the way her character develops in this story. Terri and Pru are the voices of reason and help to keep over the top Mel from getting them into even more trouble. The plot has enough twists to keep the reader engaged and the flashes of humour offset the more serious aspects.

Book description

I know who you really are.

Pru has a secret, which she has no plans to reveal – ever. But after a woman is murdered and all clues point to her, she has no choice but to disclose her true identity. When her revelations thwart the killer’s plan to frame Pru for murder, the killer begins stalking her. With each note he sends, he gets closer. The police are stumped. Pru wants to run away. She really, really wants to run, but Ajax has found the woman of his dreams and he’s not letting her go anywhere. He can be patient. In the meantime, he’ll protect her with his life. Pru isn’t feeling very patient, and her friends, Mel and Terri, are definitely not willing to wait until the police discover who the stalker is. The three friends take matters into their own hands and jump headfirst into the investigation.

Will Pru and her friends uncover her stalker before he turns his violence on Pru?

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Paranormal #Romance A Bittersweet Garden by Caren J Werlinger

Today’s team review is from Cathy, she blogs here

#RBRT Review Team

Cathy has been reading A Bittersweet Garden by Caren J Werlinger.


Fulfilling what seemed like her lifelong dream, Nora McNeill has arrived in Ireland and is on her way to Cong, the location of her favourite film, The Quiet Man. Nora’s grandparents had been born there, were extras in the film’s village scenes, and Nora had been raised on stories of their home town. Now she was here for the whole summer—breaking ties with her domineering ex girlfriend and leaving behind the routine of life as a university librarian. An old friend of her grandfather’s has a cottage for rent that will be Nora’s home while she’s in Ireland.

Sióg Cottage is haunted, according to the locals, who give it a wide berth. Nora soon finds herself caught up in unresolved events from the past with intriguing flashbacks gradually revealing the sad history of the cottage’s previous inhabitants during the famine. The Irish setting lends itself perfectly to the evolving paranormal mystery that ties in to the present. It’s a mystery that draws Nora in almost before she realises what’s happening.

Between them, Nora’s cousin Sheila and her husband Quinn, run a nursery and riding school with stables. Through them, Nora meets Brianna Devlin. Brianna’s life is just how she likes it. She has her dog, Shannon, an Irish Wolfhound, her work with the horses she loves and her friends. She doesn’t want or need a relationship, especially with someone who is only there for the summer.

Nora’s story doesn’t just take the form of travel, it’s also a journey of self discovery and learning to realise her worth, amid the beautifully realised Irish countryside. I love the descriptions of Cong (I love The Quiet Man too, regardless of how un-pc it is) and the vivid sense of place really comes alive. Stories that make me want to visit the area in which they’re set have a strong appeal.

There’s a marked development in Nora’s character as the story progresses with changes mainly in her perception of herself, realising she can be her own person without being influenced by negativity or what other people want her to be. Both she and Brianna become aware of themselves in a more positive light. This is my first book by Caren Werlinger and I enjoyed it very much. I’m sure I’ll be reading more of her work.

Book description

Nora McNeill has always dreamed of exploring her Irish roots. When she finally gets the opportunity to spend a summer in the village where her grandparents grew up, the experience promises to live up to her very high expectations. Except for the ghost that is haunting her rented cottage and is soon invading her dreams.

Briana Devlin has arranged her life the way she likes it: a good dog, good mates, and work with horses. There’s no room in her life for a relationship. Especially with an annoyingly clumsy—and attractive—American who is only going to be around for a few months.

The weeks fly by, and Nora’s ghost becomes more demanding, seeking her help in solving the mystery surrounding her death. Briana watches as Nora becomes more wrapped up in the past, seeming to fade away before her eyes.

Past and present are on a collision course, leaving Nora and Briana caught in a ghostly intrigue that could cost them not only their chance of a future together, but their very lives.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Vintage #Mystery Passage From Nuala by @harrietsteel1

Today’s team review is from Cathy, she blogs here

#RBRT Review Team

Cathy has been reading Passage From Nuala by Harriet Steel


Passage From Nuala takes Inspector Shanti de Silva and his wife Jane on a long awaited holiday. Jane wants to see the pyramids very much and they were both looking forward to a relaxing cruise to Egypt, taking in the Suez canal on their journey. Away from Nuala, de Silva was conscious of his and Jane’s ethnic differences and was prepared for the possibility of some disapproval towards their mixed marriage. His fears were mostly unfounded and the first couple of days passed peacefully.

Archie Clutterbuck’s superior, William Petrie and his wife, Lady Caroline, were fellow travellers on the Jewel of the East. De Silva and Jane found them genial company and more approachable than previously. The passengers were a mixed bunch, among them a self-important older lady, a recently engaged couple who seemed quite unsuited and a gossip columnist. The Petrie’s presence on the ship proves very fortuitous when a body is discovered.

‘I’m sorry to disturb you, sir,’ the officer said solemnly. ‘I have a message for you from Mr William Petrie.’

De Silva took the envelope the officer held out to him and opened it; the note inside it read: My apologies for the interruption to your holiday, but your professional assistance is needed immediately.

Another intriguing and entertaining instalment in the Inspector de Silva mysteries which sees de Silva solving crime in a contained environment with the help of Jane and William Petrie. On an evocatively described ocean liner with several suspects, de Silva knows time is against him. He’s under pressure as the investigation isn’t making enough progress—if he doesn’t find the murderer before they next dock, the culprit could escape.

As always, the characters are engaging and the depiction of the era is very enjoyable. The plot is well constructed and unfolds with enough twists to keep me guessing. Jane is in evidence to a greater degree in this story and it was good to see more interaction than usual between the de Silva’s  I also liked the fact that de Silva is, to some extent, out of his comfort zone.

Book description

Inspector de Silva and Jane embark on a cruise to Egypt to visit the pyramids, excited at the prospect of two weeks of sun, sea and relaxation. With Nuala, and de Silva’s duties as a police officer, far behind them, what can possibly spoil their plans? Then a writer is found dead in his cabin, suffocated by newspaper thrust down his throat. Once again, de Silva must swing into action.
The Inspector de Silva Mysteriesis a colourful and absorbing series, spiced with humour. Set in Ceylon in the 1930s, it will appeal to fans of traditional and cozy mysteries.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Cosy #Histfic #Mystery In Her Defence by @Jancoledwards

Today’s team review is from Cathy, she blogs here

#RBRT Review Team

Cathy has been reading In Her Defence by Jan Edwards


In Her Defence is set in Sussex in 1940 as the German army advances through Europe. Bunch (Rose) Courtney’s home, Perringham House, has been requisitioned by the MoD and Bunch is living with her grandmother in the Dower House while running the family estate.

Bunch had made her purchase of two Jersey heifers at auction on a busy market day. She and her recently widowed sister, Dodo (Daphne) were lunching at the local pub, along with Dodo’s father-in-law. Bunch noticed that a young woman sat alone at the bar, looking unwell, was attracting attention from the other patrons. Suddenly the woman fell to the floor writhing in agony. Panic broke out and Bunch, who is a trained nurse, tried to help but to no avail.

Several days later Bunch received a letter from an old school friend, Cecile Benoir, asking to meet her in the village. Cecile and her father left Berlin via France for England due to the war and now, after his untimely death, she is in need of a job and somewhere to live.

Two suspected poisonings so close together are too much of a coincidence for Bunch. Although this is the second book in the series (I haven’t read Winter Downs, the first) there are enough back references to get a sense of the characters and know that Bunch and Chief Inspector William Wright are meeting again in less than auspicious circumstances. I get the feeling each of them would like to take their acquaintance a little further—but perhaps are held back because of the political and economic climate.

The story is told from Bunch’s perspective and it’s clear her view of the world is limited and sometimes tested due to her gender and social position. Jan Edwards conveys the time and place and the atmosphere of the war years very well. The characters are realistic, doing the best they can under the circumstances with the inclusion of rationing, land girls and the military presence. Not to mention the negative attitude towards anyone seen as a foreigner. The uncertainty and difficulty in adjusting to the changes in their way of life has affected everyone.

Bunch is a resourceful, likeable and unconventional protagonist, kind but very well able to stand her ground, and determined to find out whatever information she can regarding the deaths.

An enjoyable cosy murder mystery reminiscent of vintage classic crime.

Book description

Bunch Courtney’s hopes for a quiet market-day lunch with her sister are shattered when a Dutch refugee dies a horribly painful death before their eyes. A few days later Bunch receives a letter from her old friend Cecile saying that her father, Professor Benoir, has been murdered in an eerily similar fashion. Two deaths by poisoning in a single week. Co-incidence? Bunch does not believe that any more than Chief Inspector William Wright.

Set against a backdrop of escalating war and the massed internments of 1940, the pair are drawn together in a race to prevent the murderer from striking again.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Tudor #Histfic BRANDON by @tonyriches

Today’s team review is from Cathy, she blogs here

#RBRT Review Team

Cathy has been reading Brandon by Tony Riches.


We first meet Charles Brandon as a twenty-one year old, newly appointed to the King’s Spears. His father, who was Henry Tudor’s standard bearer, died during the Battle of Bosworth, and Brandon had been brought up at the court of Henry Vll. He became good friends with the young Prince Harry, who was later crowned Henry VIII, teaching him to joust and was one of his favoured group of courtiers.

Always finding himself lacking funds, Brandon incurred huge debts from borrowing money, primarily from Thomas Wolsey and afterwards Thomas Cromwell. His first marriage was a means to an end—Lady Margaret Mortimer had wealth and much land.

I knew next to nothing about Charles Brandon, really only that he married Mary Tudor. It was interesting to follow his story and the research was obviously detailed. Brandon worked his way up the ranks until he became Duke of Suffolk. He and Mary took a huge risk by getting married before asking Henry’s consent, especially after Brandon had been warned not to unleash his charm upon Mary. Henry had someone in mind for his sister for political reasons. Incurring his wrath was a dangerous thing and could be classed as treason. As it was, Henry made his displeasure felt by excluding them from court and keeping his distance for a while.

Mary’s unwavering and public support of Queen Catherine of Aragon caused friction between Brandon and the Boleyn family, whose fortunes were on the rise, not to mention Henry’s new chief advisor, Thomas Cromwell. Brandon had to keep in mind his responsibilities to his family as well as loyalty to Henry when it became obvious Ann Boleyn would be the next queen.

The story centres around Brandon and I enjoyed the way Tony Riches incorporates details of life at court with all its intrigue and danger into the narrative. Brandon is a well fleshed out character who managed to navigate his way through the unpredictability of court politics. He led a full life and was lucky enough to marry twice for love.

Book description

Handsome, charismatic and a champion jouster, Sir Charles Brandon is the epitome of a Tudor Knight. A favourite of King Henry VIII, Brandon has a secret. He has fallen in love with Henry’s sister, Mary Tudor, the beautiful widowed Queen of France, and risks everything to marry her without the King’s consent.

Brandon becomes Duke of Suffolk, but his loyalty is tested fighting Henry’s wars in France. Mary’s public support for Queen Catherine of Aragon brings Brandon into dangerous conflict with the ambitious Boleyn family and the king’s new right-hand man, Thomas Cromwell.

Torn between duty to his family and loyalty to the king, Brandon faces an impossible decision: can he accept Anne Boleyn as his new queen?

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Cosy #Mystery Picture Not Perfect by @dehaggerty #TuesdayBookBlog

Today’s team review is from Cathy, she blogs here

#RBRT Review Team

Cathy has been reading Picture Not Perfect by D.E. Haggerty


In Picture Not Perfect we are reacquainted Terri, school librarian, and Melanie, school guidance counselor. Melanie’s ex, Owen, is trying his best to rekindle their relationship but Melanie is reluctant. Her over abundance of energy and lack of consideration for others is down to her ADHD and make her a complex and sometimes irritating character. She is aware not many people can cope with her hyper personality and recklessness. Afraid of Owen’s reaction to her diagnosis, she prefers to keep him at arm’s length rather than be let down.

When creepy Alfred Schultz, a social sciences teacher at the school, is found dead, Melanie is in the frame for his murder. The police found photos of her at Schultz’s house and believe he’s been stalking her.

“But he wanted to know you. Was he stalking you?” Davis’ harsh tone was in direct contradiction with Meyer’s gentle enquiries.

[Quote] “Stalking me! If he were stalking me, you’d know about it because I would have filed a police report. Duh. I’m a guidance counselor. I know exactly what steps I need to take when I’m being harassed, which I wasn’t.” By the time she finished her tirade, she was nearly screaming. [Quote]

Melanie is determined to find the real murderer in order to get the police off her back, and draws Terri and new English literature teacher Pru, into her far fetched, madcap, and sometimes dangerous, schemes as she follows up on her suspicions and speculations. The friends manage to uncover more than they’d imagined but will the police believe them?

Being Melanie’s friend would tax many people but Terri especially, and Pru, take her at face value. Terri is used to her antics and Pru is learning fast. Owen’s doing his best to convince Melanie he’s in it for the long haul, but she’s not easy to convince. There’s a good mix of characters and I enjoyed the chapter headings.

Picture Not Perfect is a light, fun cosy mystery, perfect for whiling away an hour or two.

Book description

A picture tells a story. But is it the truth?When the police find pictures of Melanie hanging up at her murdered colleague’s house, they’re convinced he was stalking her. Maybe she even killed him. Melanie was not being stalked! And she certainly didn’t kill her supposed stalker – as if. But Mel – always up for a bit of drama – jumps at the chance to go search for the real killer. When Mel’s ex-boyfriend, Owen, discovers her plans, he pulls out all the stops to ensure she’s safe and to win her back. No matter what happens with the murder investigation, he’s not letting her go. With the police setting their sights on Mel, he may need to jeopardize his own career on the police force to protect her. Will Mel find the real killer before the detectives arrest her for murder?

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Social #HistFic Set In #Australia The Swooping Magpie by @LizaPerrat

Today’s team review is from Cathy, she blogs here

#RBRT Review Team

Cathy has been reading The Swooping Magpie by Liza Perrat


Lindsay Townsend, a pretty and popular sixteen year old, has set her sights on Jon Halliwell, the P.E. teacher at her school, regardless of the fact he is married. Although she is the daughter of wealthy parents, Lindsay’s home life leaves much to be desired. Her father is a controlling bully who thinks nothing of physical or verbal abuse and his long suffering wife has been cowed into submission. Despite her seeming popularity, Lindsay is vulnerable, lonely and desperate for affection. When her interest in Jon is reciprocated, it develops into a secretive affair.

Naively, Lindsay dreams of a future with Jon but is brought down to earth when her life changes drastically. She has no control over the events which overtake her and is forced into a hopeless situation no-one should have to endure, especially in the so called liberated world of the 1970s.

The story is narrated in the first person from Lindsay’s perspective and Liza Perrat captures the plight of girls in the same circumstances exceptionally well, the detailed research bringing it all to vivid, if sometimes horrific, life. Their shared experience forced the girls, who all had tragic backgrounds, to grow up quickly and they forged lasting friendships.

The Swooping Magpie is a fictional story based on fact. It’s hard to imagine the forced incarceration and cruelty young unmarried girls, who found themselves pregnant, suffered. The circumstances of the pregnancy didn’t matter, the girls had disgraced their families, sometimes through no fault of their own, and were ostracised. No thought or compassion for the trauma suffered was forthcoming and they were told in no uncertain terms to forget it and get on with their lives. In most cases the pain of loss and regret never left them. It’s also incredible, thought not totally unexpected, that the perpetrators of the scandalous conduct meted out to the girls at every level, including the parents, never had to answer for their actions.

A wonderfully written, moving and compelling story with unexpected, sometimes devastating, twists as we follow Lindsay’s journey into adulthood. The characters are realistically drawn and although Lindsay is preoccupied with her own feelings initially, regardless of anyone else, she becomes more sympathetic and likeable as the story unfolds to its satisfying conclusion.

As always, Liza Perrat has created evocative imagery of time and place, including social issues, wildlife, music and decor. And, although this is the second book in the 1970s Australian drama series, like The Silent Kookaburra it is a stand alone novel.

Book description

The thunderclap of sexual revolution collides with the black cloud of illegitimacy.

Sixteen-year-old Lindsay Townsend is pretty and popular at school. At home, it’s a different story. Dad belts her and Mum’s either busy or battling a migraine. So when sexy school-teacher Jon Halliwell finds her irresistible, Lindsay believes life is about to change.

She’s not wrong.

Lindsay and Jon pursue their affair in secret, because if the school finds out, Jon will lose his job. If Lindsay’s dad finds out, there will be hell to pay. But when a dramatic accident turns her life upside down, Lindsay is separated from the man she loves.

Events spiral beyond her control, emotions conflicting with doubt, loneliness and fear, and Lindsay becomes enmeshed in a shocking true-life Australian scandal. The schoolyard beauty will discover the dangerous games of the adult world. Games that destroy lives.

Lindsay is forced into the toughest choice of her young life. The resulting trauma will forever burden her heart.

Reflecting the social changes of 1970s Australia, The Swooping Magpie is a chilling psychological tale of love, loss and grief, and, through collective memory, finding we are not alone.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #RomCom A Village Affair by Julie Houston @JulieHouston2

Today’s team review is from Cathy, she blogs here

#RBRT Review Team

Cathy has been reading A Village Affair by Julie Houston


Cassie Beresford’s life was pretty perfect—a handsome, loving husband, two great kids, a beautiful home and she was about to realise her professional dream of the deputy head position at Little Acorns primary school. She and Mark, with a group of their closest friends, were attending a charity auction when Cassie’s world as she knows it takes a shocking turn. Her husband and her best friend Tina, have been having an affair for the past two years. It was announced in spectacular style to the whole room by Tina’s inebriated husband.

Cassie gets through the next few weeks with difficulty, not made any easier by the fact she is asked to fill in as head teacher, starting immediately. There’s also a development company planning to build a housing estate on the green belt around the village, which includes her grandfather’s wildflower meadow. Making a bad situation worse, they also want to demolish Little Acorns.

‘The village of Westenbury itself, really,’ Edward smiled. ‘We own it all.’

‘But not our little bit.’ David smiled back, the smile not quite reaching his eyes. ‘The Church owns the land Little Acorns is built on.’

‘But we own all the fields, all the land that surrounds the school…’

‘And you want our little bit of land because, without it, you can’t access your huge amount of land to build the three thousand plus houses the Bamforth Estate has put forward the plans for to Midhope Council.’

Cassie is a very likeable and sympathetic character and I love how she manages to turn her life around after the huge shock of her husband’s affair and at the same time being thrust into the role of a single parent. Luckily she has excellent support in the form of friends and family. The new job and the fight against the development help to keep her mind off her personal problems.

I think I was fooled somewhat by the cover. I hadn’t read Julie Houston before otherwise I probably would have known better, because A Village Affair wasn’t at all what I was expecting (and I mean that in a good way.) Although the narrative is full of humour, which balances out the heartache and drama, serious and more sensitive subjects are handled delicately and are interspersed with wonderful and sometimes hilarious illustrations of life in a primary school.

A very well written, real and easy to relate to story with memorable, well defined characters. I particularly enjoyed Cassie’s free spirited and unconventional mother. The unpredictability of life makes Cassie re-evaluate who she is and what she wants and, more importantly, what she doesn’t want. With some great twists the pace is steady but never slow. A really lovely read. I’ll definitely be reading more of Julie Houston’s books.

Book description

Cassie Beresford has recently landed her dream job as deputy head at her local, idyllic village primary school, Little Acorns. So, the last thing she needs is her husband of twenty years being ‘outed’ at a village charity auction – he has been having an affair with one of her closest friends.

As if that weren’t enough to cope with, Cassie suddenly finds herself catapulted into the head teacher position, and at the forefront of a fight to ward off developers determined to concrete over the beautiful landscape.

But through it all, the irresistible joy of her pupils, the reality of keeping her teenage children on the straight and narrow, her irrepressible family and friends, and the possibility of new love, mean what could have been the worst year ever, actually might be the best yet…


Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #HistFic The Lost Letters by @SarahM_writer @Bookouture

Today’s team review is from Cathy, she blogs here

#RBRT Review Team

Cathy has been reading The Lost Letters by Sarah Mitchell


The Lost Letters is a dual timeline story, with alternating sections switching between the present and the past just prior to, and during the Second World War. Martha Rodwell is on a quest to discover why her father, who had been writing his memoirs before his sudden death a month ago, had been about to take a trip to England. She and her sister Elizabeth discovered he had booked a hotel and rented a beach hut in Wells-next-the-Sea for the whole month of May.

Her father’s death hit Martha hard and she was having trouble dealing with the emotional fallout. He had been evacuated to Canada during WWII but never wanted to talk about it. So Martha is on a plane bound for England to try and find out why the first twenty years of her father’s life was missing from his notes, what was drawing him to a small coastal town in Norfolk….and who was Catkins? Apart from all that it’s also an opportunity for Martha to visit her daughter who is studying in London and hopefully repair a seemingly fractured relationship.

‘He was found on the porch, surrounded by sheets of writing paper skimming over the lawn and skewered to the rose bushes. Six months previously he had stepped down from the municipal council to write his memoirs. Elizabeth, her sister, had offered to proof read them but she had told Martha that he refused point-blank to let her see them.

’Not until they’re finished,’ he said, And then he mentioned, casually, as if it were of no import at all, that in order to finish them he would need to go back to England.’

Back in time to 1939, we meet Sylvie who is married to Howard with two children, Esther and Lewis. When her aunt dies, Sylvie is surprised to learn she has been left a beach hut in Wells where she was brought up and her parents still live. She meets Connie and her little brother, Charlie at the beach and they become firm friends. Their lives become entwined and the results of their lifelong friendship echoes down through the years.

I enjoyed the alternating storyline, although it’s a little slow to begin with. Martha’s story seemed to take a while to get going but once it did I became more invested in the unfolding tale, as secrets are uncovered and the mystery begins to unravel, not without several realistic twists. Britain during the war is described evocatively, the devastation and destruction, and the evacuation of children. What a terrible decision to have to make, I can’t even imagine.

Characters are believable and well crafted. I liked Martha, Sylvie and Connie very much, their determination and courage stood out. A poignant story of family secrets and the bond of friendship and love, with a surprising conclusion that tied everything up nicely. The Lost Letters is an accomplished debut.

Book description

What if keeping your loved ones safe meant never seeing them again? 

Norfolk, 1940: Sylvia’s husband Howard has gone off to war, and she is struggling to raise her two children alone. Her only solace is her beach hut in Wells-Next-The-Sea, and her friendship with Connie, a woman she meets on the beach. The two women form a bond that will last a lifetime, and Sylvia tells Connie something that no-one else knows: about a secret lover… and a child.

Canada, present day: When Martha’s beloved father dies, he leaves her two things: a mysterious stash of letters to an English woman called ‘Catkins’ and directions to a beach hut in the English seaside town of Wells. Martha is at a painful crossroads in her own life, and seizes this chance for a trip to England – to discover more about her family’s past, and the identity of her father’s secret correspondent.

The tragedy of war brought heartbreaking choices for Sylvia. And a promise made between her and Connie has echoed down the years. For Martha, if she uncovers the truth, it could change everything…

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