Review: Love Me or Leave Me by Claudia Carroll

 

Title: Love Me or Leave Me

Author: Claudia Carroll

Published: Avon: Harper Collins UK October 2014

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Status: Read from October 09 to 10, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the The Light Brigade/publisher}

My Thoughts:

“A divorce hotel. Where you check in married and check out single….This would be a place where two unhappy souls could quickly tie up loose ends and where something that had long been a source of acute pain to both, could gently be eased out if its misery. At least that was the general idea.”

Claudia Carroll’s 11th book, Love Me or Leave Me, is a lively romantic comedy about love, betrayal, divorce and new beginnings. Chloe Townsend is certain she has the professional experience, and personal empathy as a jilted bride, to make Dublin’s newest luxury niche hotel catering to amicably divorcing couples a success and she is determined to ensure its opening weekend will prove it. But true love, and its dissolution, never runs smooth, and with her boss hovering over her shoulder, and her ex-fiance making an appearance, the honeymoon period might be over before its even begun.

The narrative unfolds from the perspectives of Chloe, and three of the guests, Dawn, Jo and Lucy, who slowly reveal why they believe their short marriages have reached crisis point. Dawn, young and heartbroken, can’t forgive her husband, Kirk, who is embroiled in an affair; Jo, a control freak struggling with infertility, regards Dave, an often out of work actor, as irresponsible; and supermodel Lucy believes her marriage to Andrew has disintegrated due to his grown children’s sabotage. Of course none of the women are entirely blameless, and almost uniformly the men are reluctant partners in the divorce.

“There is his story, her story and then somewhere in the middle lies the truth.”

As the weekend develops, the couples are forced to confront each other and deal with their mistakes and misunderstandings. Carroll presents their issues sensitively but also with plenty of humour. There is a frisson of suspense built up as reconciliation seems possible for some of the couples, and plenty of drama, from screaming arguments to medical emergencies.

With well drawn characters, and plenty of humour and heart, Love Me or Leave Me is an engaging and entertaining novel where everyone gets their happy ever after.

 

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Review: The Night Garden by Lisa Van Allen

 

Title: The Night Garden

Author: Lisa Van Allen

Published: Ballantine: Random House October 2014

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Status: Read from October 06 to 07, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Edelweiss}

My Thoughts:

“To visit the Pennywort farm was to be reminded of everything in the world that was beautiful and bountiful…luxurious and endlessly good.”

In upstate New York, Olivia Pennywort tends the family farm and the remarkable garden maze that she has created as a haven at its heart. It is said that the maze offers its visitors the answers to their most difficult questions, but it affords no such benefit to its caretaker who harbours a secret that forces her to keep everyone at arm’s length. Over the years, Olivia has schooled herself to accept that there is no solution to her problem, but when Olivia’s childhood best friend and sweetheart, Sam Van Winkle, returns to town, her fiercest desires are rekindled and she is compelled to ask herself if the garden she has created is her protector, or her prison.

Van Allen’s prose is often lyrical, with vivid imagery of the garden and its surrounds. I could easily visualise the bordered up house, the stone walled garden of poisonous plants and the ramshackle cottage where Olivia’s father made his home, though I wish I had a better knowledge of horticulture to fully appreciate the individual design of the maze.

” As she approached the garden maze, she saw that it too had gone wild with the joy of the rains. The smell of flowers was so thick it crossed the line from pleasant into nearly repulsive. Inside, Olivia wound through the twists and turns, admiring how rambunctious and joyful her maze seemed, as if it were spring instead of late summer. Morning glories the size of dinner plates stayed open all day long, and thickened beds of coreopsis gave off a mustardly glow. There was a slight breeze that carried the faintest scent of autumn, and far beneath the sweetness, the mineral scent of winter.”

Though billed as magical realism, the magic wasn’t grounded in the way I would expect from the genre, and instead I feel the story had more in common with a modern reinterpretation of a fairytale like Sleeping Beauty. Olivia, beautiful and beloved by all, lives alone at a top of a tower, is essentially trapped in stasis, and is eventually rescued by her Prince Charming, who has to hack through wild overgrowth to save her.

The romance between Olivia and Sam, which began when they were childhood sweethearts, and is reignited on his return, is touching and soulful. I sympathised with their hopes and fears for their relationship, I believed in their yearning to be together and I could feel their frustration at not being able to have skin contact.

” And then he was threading his fingers into the mass, twisting and untwisting it in his hands. She didn’t even try to make conversation while he touched her; the sensation was too exquisite, too painful and pleasurable at the same time. He combed his fingers through her hair from top to bottom, and each time he caught a tangle it was like a little bite, a small and precise blast of desire like the spark from flint and steel.”

In terms of plot, however, the neighborly conflict seems forced and fizzles out, and though we are told the garden can offer help to those seeking answers, Van Allen never really shows this. The overall conclusion too is unrealized, almost as if Van Allen couldn’t figure out how to solve the conundrum herself, and so just hoped the reader would would accept vague assurances of ‘love conquers all’.

A tale of loss, grief, desire, love and hope, I enjoyed the story of The Night Garden.

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Review: Outback Ghost by Rachael Johns

 

Title: Outback Ghost {Bunyip Bay #3}

Author: Rachael Johns

Published: Harlequin Au October 2014

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Status: Read from October 03 to 04, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Outback Ghost is the third book in Rachael Johns’ loosely linked Bunyip Bay series, following on from Outback Dreams and Outback Blaze.

Readers familiar with the previous books will recall being introduced to Adam Burton, a former underwear model and third generation farmer, and the whispers about the unresolved disappearance of his seven year old sister when Adam was ten years old. Twenty years later, Adam’s mother is still mired in her grief, and his father suddenly announces he has had enough, leaving Adam to take care of their sheep and wheat property, and to welcome their new farm-stay guests.
Stella Reynolds, a waitress, author and single mother is looking forward to spending two months on the Burton farm with her seven year old daughter, eager for Heidi to experience the joys of country living that characterised her own idyllic childhood, before the estrangement with her parents caused by her teenage pregnancy. Within hours of their arrival, Heidi has charmed their landlords, the gorgeous Adam, and his wan mother, adopted a pregnant cat, and even made a new imaginary friend, whom she calls Lily-Blue. Stella should be delighted that her daughter has settled in so well but instead she feels slightly apprehensive about the weeks ahead. At first she attributes her anxiety to her undeniable attraction to Adam, Stella hasn’t had so much as a date since Heidi was born, but she is also spooked by the unexplained noises she sometimes hears in the cottage and her discovery that her daughter’s imaginary friend shares the same name as Adam’s missing sister.

While at its core Outback ghost is a contemporary rural romance featuring the development of the relationship between Adam and Stella, the plot includes an interesting element of mystery and a hint of the supernatural. It is a heartwarming story about love, family and belonging but with a bittersweet twist when it reveals the fate of Lily-Blue.

It’s a delight to revisit the community of Bunyip Bay, and glimpse familiar characters from previous stories. Johns protagonists are always well developed and I enjoyed getting to know Adam and Stella. Adam doesn’t flinch from the responsibility of the farm, and caring for his mother. He carries around a fair bit of guilt over his sister’s disappearance, and for the aftermath, yet he hasn’t let it consume him entirely. Stella is a likeable, capable and admirable heroine who deals with challenging circumstances with determination and grace. She is a little guarded, understandably so, so I really liked watching her open up to Adam and form tentative friendships with Frankie and Ruby. Heidi is a definite scene stealer, affectionate, sweet natured and lively, she is an adorable character. Few authors manage to portray child characters realistically but I think Johns does so perfectly here.

Outback Ghost is my favourite novel of the Bunyip Bay series, and was supposed to be last, however I believe Johns has decided to revisit the town eventually and give Frankie an opportunity to find love… I can’t wait.

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Review: Reluctantly Charmed by Ellie O’Neill

reluctantlycharmed

 

Title: Reluctantly Charmed

Author: Ellie O’Neill

Published: Simon and Schuster October 2014

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Status: Read from October 01 to October 02, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Reluctantly Charmed is a bewitching novel from debut author Ellie O’Neill.

Kate McDaid is curious when she is summoned on her 26th birthday to a lawyer’s office to hear the reading of a will written 130 years ago. The will, penned by Kate’s great-great-great-great aunt, requires her to agree to publish a series of letters over seven weeks in exchange for her inheritance. Kate, a modern Dubliner and junior copywriter, is bemused to discover the letters contain Seven Steps that her aunt, a self proclaimed witch, claims will reunite humanity with the near forgotten world of fairy. Not seeing the harm in fulfilling the eccentric request, Kate publishes the first letter online but within days her life is turned completely upside down.

Entertaining and light, Reluctantly Charmed is a fanciful story about self discovery, modern day malaise, and magic, with appealing touches of humour, intrigue and romance.

An ordinary young woman, with a 9-5 job in advertising to which she rides her bike everyday, a crush on a gorgeous pub singer, and a tiny flat in Dublin, Kate is a likeable character who is easy to relate to. She is naturally skeptical of her aunt’s claim that she was a witch who communed with the fairies, and that Kate too has powers. Even as Kate instinctively offers ‘spells’ to her girlfriends to improve their love life or help their children sleep or chats with the flowers on her desk, she remains doubtful of the existence of magic, more concerned with attracting the attention of ‘rock god’ Jim, lining up ‘The Hoff’ to star in a client’s campaign and getting to the corner store without being accosted by the Anorak gang. Kate is astonished by the snowballing interest in the ‘Steps’, fueled by social media, which bestows on her an unwelcome celebrity status.

Ireland is an ideal setting for the novel, given the country’s traditional association with the ‘wee folk’. Despite the modern pace of Irish life, belief in fairy folklore still lingers and O’Neill’s story invites the reader to imagine the possibilities. The ‘Seven Steps’, which urges people to reconnect with nature and promise a revelatory reward, is an irresistible lure for those, from the earnest Simon the Anorak to the sinister journalist, Maura Ni Ghaora, looking for the potential of magic.

With well drawn, engaging characters, a delightful premise and effortless style, fans of magical realism are sure to be enchanted by the whimsy of Reluctantly Charmed.

Learn more about Ellie O’Neill and Reluctantly Charmed in her guest post for Book’d Out

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Reluctantly Charmed Blog Tour: Ellie O’Neill on Irish Fairy Lore

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Ellie O’Neill took the long way round. She sold spider catchers in Sydney, flipped burgers in Dublin and worked in advertising in London. All the while, she had that niggling feeling, that she had stories to tell. So, at thirty-something, she made the brave leap and moved back in with her parents to get the job done. Swopping the dizzy disco lights of London for their suburban Dublin house, she scribbled away knowing that there was something about Irish fairies she needed to share with the world. Then most unexpectedly Ellie fell madly in love. The only catch, he lived in Australia. True to form she couldn’t ignore the magic and followed her heart to Oz for what was supposed to be a long holiday. Five years later Australia is home to Ellie, her Joe and their fabulous baby (with an Irish name no one can pronounce).

Reluctantly Charmed (Simon and Schuster Au October 2014) is Ellie O’Neill’s first novel. You can read my review HERE, but first, read on to learn more about this delightful novel…

reluctantlycharmedKate McDaid is listing her new-year’s resolutions hoping to kick-start her rather stagnant love life and career when she gets some very strange news. To her surprise, she is the sole benefactor of a great great-great-great aunt and self-proclaimed witch also called Kate McDaid, who died over 130 years ago. As if that isn’t strange enough, the will instructs that, in order to receive the inheritance, Kate must publish seven letters, one by one, week by week.
Burning with curiosity, Kate agrees and opens the first letter – and finds that it’s a passionate plea to reconnect with the long-forgotten fairies of Irish folklore. Almost instantaneously, Kate’s life is turned upside down. Her romantic life takes a surprising turn and she is catapulted into the public eye.
As events become stranger and stranger – and she discovers things about herself she’s never known before – Kate must decide whether she can fulfil her great-aunt’s final, devastating request … and whether she can face the consequences if she doesn’t.
Witty, enchanting and utterly addictive, Reluctantly Charmed is about what happens when life in the fast lane collides with the legacy of family, love and its possibilities … and a little bit of magic.

****

I’m delighted to welcome Ellie O’Neill to Book’d Out today to share a little about how her granny and her belief in fairies inspired the writing of Reluctantly Charmed.

My Granny Believed in Fairies by Ellie McNeill

My granny believed in fairies. She was a formidable woman who shed her rural upbringing with delight and made a very modern life for herself in Dublin. She worked when that wasn’t the done thing for a woman, she dressed in the height of fashion at all times, she drank Brandy or champagne, and was a keen poker player. But there were old fashioned traditions from her upbringing that she was never able to shake, and one of them was her belief in fairies.

Fairy lore in Ireland has been handed down from one generation to the next and is a predominantly rural tradition. Irish fairies are not angelic woodland creatures, they like to drink whisky, dance, sing songs and play sports. The belief is that if they are not kept happy they will turn nasty and play an evil trick on you. The good news is that it’s not too difficult to keep them happy; leave them be, don’t disturb a fairy ring, leave a little bit of milk for them at the end of your glass, wash the steps at the front of your house for the fairies to have somewhere nice to rest as they’re passing by. If however, they are angered they could perform all manner of devilment on you. Granny told me stories of her village, and how a local farmer was said to have stepped into a fairy ring and that was the cause of his club foot. Back then, if a farmer had a bad harvest it was more often than not because of something he had done to the fairies. Ailments and disabilities were regularly attributed to their anger. She also had a story of a man who was given a hump on his back because he sang one of their favorite songs out of tune. Fairies were not to be messed with.

What’s interesting about this piece of Irish folklore is that, unlike in other cultures the fairies are not confined to childhood. They belong to the adult world. A thread of this superstition still exists today, the majority of farmers in Ireland would be incredibly reluctant to farm through a quarter of an acre of a field that houses a fairy ring. Just in case. They would also incur a government fine of up to $20,000 as fairy rings are seen as our cultural heritage and are protected landmarks.

After my Granny had passed away and I started to write Reluctantly Charmed, I could not shake the memory of her putting her glass on the window sill with two fingers of milk in it. What I had accepted in my childhood deserved some exploration in my adulthood. I investigated the folklore and fell in love with that romantic otherworld and all the magic and mystery that surrounds it.

****

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Review: Hello from the Gillespies by Monica McIerney

 

Title: Hello from the Gillespies

Author: Monica McIerney

Published: Michael Joseph: Penguin AU September 2014

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Status: Read from September 25 to 27, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Australian-born but Dublin-based Monica McInerney is an internationally best selling author of novels that explore the joys and challenges of family and relationships. Hello from the Gillespies is her tenth novel, following on from her most recent successes, The House of Memories and Lola’s Secret.

For thirty three years, Angela Gillespie has sent a lighthearted letter on December 1st, updating family and friends on the lives of the Gillespies, who live on a large sheep station in outback South Australia, but this time when she sits down to write her annual missive she forgoes the usual niceties and vents her doubts about her marriage, her concerns about their financial affairs, her worries about her children, her frustrations with an interfering aunt and wonders, what could have been. The letter was never meant to be sent but Angela is interrupted by an emergency (her youngest son accidentally amputating the tip of a finger) and her husband, who hasn’t bothered to read the letters in years, thinks he is being helpful when he presses send.

Hello from the Gillespies offers a warm hearted, funny and sometimes poignant glimpse into family life. When Angela’s letter makes all their secrets public, the fall out for the family, which includes her husband Nick, their adult daughters Genevieve, Victoria and Lindy and ten year old son Ig, is mixed. As they struggle to come to grips with the truths laid bare, an unexpected twist in the tale challenges the very foundation of the Gillespie family.

McIereny’s characters are appealing and believable. As a wife and mother, I identified with Angela’s frustrations and concerns. It is a rare woman I suspect who hasn’t at least once wondered ‘what if?’ Perhaps my only niggle is that I felt the adult daughters behaved in ways more appropriate for twenty something rather than thirty something year old’s (I don’t have a lot of patience for the adultescent trend). However, the situations the characters find themselves in ring true, albeit slightly exaggerated, as do the dynamics between the family members.

Despite its length, the story had no trouble keeping my attention with several twists to the plot keeping it interesting, though the conclusion was predictable. The writing is accessible with natural dialogue. The settings, which includes the Gillespie station and brief glimpses of Ireland, London, New York and Adelaide, are authentically portrayed.

A heartfelt, witty and perceptive story about family, friendship and love, Hello from the Gillespies is an entertaining and charming read.

 

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Review: Rain Dance by Karen Wood

 

Title: Rain Dance

Author: Karen Wood

Published: Allen & Unwin September 2014

Status: Read from September 24 to 25, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Rain Dance is an enjoyable Australian rural romance for an young adult audience from accomplished author, Karen Wood.

When the Harvey family loses their house to the bank, they are forced to relocate from their coastal home to an isolated property in Gunnedah to fulfil a temporary building contract. Fifteen year old Holly, along with her two older brothers, Brandon and Jake, and younger sister, Eva, have no option but to make the best of the situation but she can’t imagine ever considering the arid land home.

Seventeen year old Kaydon Armstrong is shocked when he returns home from boarding school for the holidays to learn his father has made a deal with an investor to expand their cattle farm. Given the current drought conditions, Kaydon is suspicious of the investor’s motives but his father isn’t interested in his doubts and is determined for the deal to go through.

Rain Dance is an engaging story set in Gunnedah, a regional area in New South Wales. There is a sweet romance that develops between teenagers Holly, a vegetarian, and Kaydon, a fifth generation cattle farmer, action packed scenes when an accidental fire sparks and threatens Holly and her family, and a touch of intrigue when it becomes obvious the investor willing to bankroll the Armstrong’s plans for expansion has his own agenda.

While Rain Dance is aimed at a young adult audience Wood doesn’t shy away from illustrating the realities of life. She explores the affect of the financial crisis through the Harvey family’s losses, the emotional and financial strain drought has placed on regional farmers and raises the environmental risks of mining. Wood also examines some difficult themes through some of the minor characters. Kaydon’s best friend Dan has been struggling since the death of his father in a farming accident. Dan’s mother has been unable to maintain the farm and, with the family on the verge of losing everything while the insurance company delays payment, Dan is growing increasingly desperate. Jake, Holly’s brother, has admitted to being gay and is feeling lonely, and Holly’s mother has just been diagnosed with cancer, with the only treatment available hundreds of kilometers away.

With appealing characters, a strong sense of place and a well crafted plot, Rain Dance is a lovely read. I’d recommend it for adult fans of the rural romance genre to share with the teens (age 12 and up) in their life.

 

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Review: The Sunnyvale Girls by Fiona Palmer

 

Title: The Sunnyvale Girls

Author: Fiona Palmer

Published: Michael Joseph: Penguin September 2014

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Status: Read from September 22 to 23, 2014 — I own a copy  {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

The Sunnyvale Girls, Fiona Palmer’s sixth novel, is an engaging story about family, self discovery, and romance.

‘Sunnyvale’, a sheep and wheat farm in regional Western Australia, is home to three generations of women, matriarch Maggie, her daughter Antonia (Toni) and granddaughter, twenty year old Felicity (Flick).

A dual narrative featuring a contemporary and historical timeline has become a popular element in recent rural romance novels. In The Sunnyvale Girls, Felicity discovers a hidden cache of unopened letters addressed to Maggie, and unearths a secret Maggie has kept for over 50 years. Through Maggie’s memories, we learn the origins of that secret – a forbidden wartime romance between Maggie and a young, handsome Italian POW billeted to Sunnyvale during the last years of World War Two. Toni is shocked by Maggie’s revelation, but Felicity reacts to the news with excitement and convinces Toni to accompany her to Italy to try and find Maggie’s lost love.

Both timelines feature family drama, romance and a hint of mystery. Palmer explores the individual journey’s of the three women with a deft hand by challenging her characters emotionally.
Maggie’s story reveals a bittersweet tale of first love, thwarted by prejudice and circumstance. Her secret is easily guessed, but the storyline is sweet, the historical details are interesting and I was eager to find out why Rocco never returned for Maggie as promised.
Toni, already simmering with long held resentments and low self esteem, is furious with her mother when Maggie’s secret is revealed. It makes her question the choices she has made in the past and forces her to confront the decisions she needs to make about her future, especially where Jimmy, Sunnyvale’s farm hand, is concerned.
Felicity is simply curious about Maggie’s past and excited at the prospect of reuniting her grandmother with her lost love. Having fought her mother’s attempts to get Felicity to explore the world beyond the boundaries of Sunnyvale, Italy is a revelation for Felicity, especially when she meets a handsome Italian waiter.

Palmer has always had success with creating a strong sense of place in her novels, drawing on her familiarity with the Australian rural landscape. The author’s descriptions of Italy, particularly of the village of Montone in which Maggie and Flick stay, are similarly evocative. (Check out Fiona’s guest post at Book’d Out to learn about her research trip to Italy.)

A lovely rural romance, with appealing characters, a strong storyline, and a historical twist, The Sunnyvale Girls is another enjoyable novel from Fiona Palmer.

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Review: Tumbledown Manor by Helen Brown

 

Title: Tumbledown Manor

Author: Helen Brown

Published: Arena: Allen & Unwin September 2014

Status: Read from September 16 to 17, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

New Zealand born columnist Helen Brown is probably best known for her bestselling memoirs, Cleo and After Cleo. Tumbledown Manor, set in Australia where the author now lives with her family, is the journalist’s first fiction novel.

Lisa Katz (nee Trumperton) would rather forget she is turning 50 but is delighted when her family gathers to celebrate in her Upper East Side apartment, her daughter Portia has flown in from the west coast, her son, Ted, and her sister, Maxine and her husband, from Australia. As Lisa’s husband of 20 plus years delivers a speech honouring her, an extravagant arrangement of roses is delivered and Lisa reaches for the card, only to learn the bouquet was intended for Jake’s mistress. With her life in shambles, Lisa decides to return to Australia and to reclaim her ancestral home in the Victorian countryside. Trumperton Manor, nicknamed Tumbledown Manor by the locals, isn’t in great shape but Lisa is eager to make it her home despite flood, fire, family secrets, a feral cat and an overly familiar landscaper.

The themes of Tumbledown Manor mainly focus on family, love, acceptance and moving on as the plot centers around Lisa’s desire to make a new life for herself by renovating Tumbledown Manor. There is plenty of humour, a surplus of family drama, a touch of romance and a hint of mystery surrounding a past death in the manor’s stables, which eventually exposes a dark family secret.

I have to admit I wasn’t particularly fond of Lisa. While I sympathised with her over her marriage collapse, I thought her to be a prickly and somewhat self absorbed character who didn’t demonstrate the personal change I was expecting. I think several characters (eg Portia, Zack and Aunt Caroline) could have been dispensed with to give Lisa more opportunity to grow, and their absence wouldn’t have been noticed. I did like the laconic charm of Scott, the local landscaper/handyman who serves as the romantic interest, and is a fount of patience where Lisa is concerned. I also liked Ted and his ‘flatmate’ James. My favourite characters though were Mojo (the feral cat) and Kiwi (the cockatoo) who steal the limelight in every scene they appear in.

I was a little disappointed that the bulk of the renovations to the manor take place in the background. There are brief mentions of uncovering flagstones, furniture shopping and the ‘Grey Army’ being up and down ladders in between eating egg sandwiches but there is no real sense of the house being bought back to life, though the grounds get some attention.

Despite the appealing premise and some engaging, well written scenes and characters unfortunately, Tumbledown Manor wasn’t much more than an okay read for me.

 

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Review: The French Prize by Cathryn Hein

 

Title: The French Prize

Author: Cathryn Hein

Published: MIRA: Harlequin AU September 2014

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Status: Read from September 10 to 11, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:
The French Prize is a contemporary romantic adventure set in Provence, a change of pace for author Cathryn Hein who has a reputation for her heartwarming Australian rural romance novels.

Dr Olivia Walker is a historian obsessed with finding the mythical sword, Durendal, said to have belonged to the warrior Roland, a champion of Charlemagne’s court. When she is employed by the wealthy Raimund Blacard to recover La Tasse due Chevalier Gris, ‘The Cup of the Grey Knight’, she is one step closer to realising her dream and silencing her detractors, for etched around the rim is a clue to legendary sword’s location.
For centuries the descendants of one of Charlemagne’s most trusted aides, Guy of Nabonne, have been the guardians of Durendal but in the 14th century its hiding place was lost. Foreign Legion Captain Raimund Blacard is the last of his family line and he is determined to recover the sword before his murderous rival Gaston, and to Olivia’s horror, destroy it.

In part, The French Prize is an Indiana Jones style treasure hunt for a lost relic as Olivia and Raimund search for the clues that will lead them to Durendal. The sword, and the legends of Roland and Charlemagne, are historical facts which have been incorporated into the story and then blended with Hein’s imagination.

If I am honest the romance was a touch heavy for me personally with all the yearning and the brooding, it didn’t quite overwhelm the plot but I did feel like it threatened to on occasion. That said, the chemistry, relationship development and conflict between Olivia and Raimund was believable within the context of the story.

Olivia, as a passionate historian who has chased the legend of Durendal for most of her life, is horrified by Raimund’s plans to destroy the sword and hopes to convince him to spare it. She naively refuses to let the hunt go, even with Gaston posing a very real threat, but proves capable and resourceful.
Raimund is all about duty and honour but his elder brother’s murder at the hands of Gaston has him swearing to destroy the sword, despite his family’s legacy of guardianship. Grieving and weary, he sees himself as cursed which is why he rebuffs Olivia despite their obvious mutual attraction.

Hein’s settings are nicely realised, from the landscape of the French countryside to the hidden room storing Raimund’s family treasures, her characters are well drawn and the plot is neatly crafted. Combining romance with well paced action and suspense, The French Prize is an engaging novel.

 

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Also by Cathryn Hein reviewed at Book’d Out

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