31 March 2011

Book Review: To Marry A Prince by Sophie Page

Bella Greenwood is just a normal girl returning from her travels when she is hauled along with her best friend Charlotte to a rather well-to-do party. She manages to get herself into a somewhat embarrassing situation, but is rescued by a tall, dark and handsome stranger. All is fine, until Bella realises that her knight in shining armour is none other than Prince Richard, son of the King and Queen and heir to the throne of Britain. Bella is mortified but can't stop her feelings towards him. Soon the pair are madly in love, and Bella begins to think a Royal Wedding might be on the cards. But is she right in thinking that a Prince can fall in love with her, and do fairytales romances ever have a happy ending?

Sophie Page is the pen-name of RNA author Jenny Haddon, and it is the first book she has published under this name. To be honest, when I first saw the cover of this book, I wasn't instantly enamoured with it,  I thought it looked a bit old-fashioned and not something that would interest me, but luckily the plot totally sold it to me more than anything else. It is obviously based on the upcoming Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, and is the second such book based on it to be released recently! I was really excited to give it a go, and so eagerly began to read.

28 March 2011

Book Review: A Surprise Party by Sue Welfare

Liz and Suzie really wanted their parents 40th Wedding Anniversary Party to be something that Rose and Jack would never forget, and boy did it turn out to be that. Liz, TV Golden's Girl after hosting hit show "Starmaker" has left all the hard graft to her sister, much to Suzie's resentment. She's fine with the fact she's stumped up the money and has therefore done her bit but Suzie is fed up of doing everything herself, with the help of husband Sam. Their daughters Megan and Hannah seem to be going a bit awry as well, so that just adds to Suzie's worry. As the party kicks off, huge secrets are suddenly revealed which threaten to thrown Liz and Suzie's very existence into question, and makes them worry about the foundation of everything they have ever known. Will the family ever be able to get past this, and was the surprise party the worst idea ever... will there be a family left to speak of as the champagne stops flowing?

I have to be honest and say that initially I was not attracted to picking up this book at all, and it would happily have sat on my shelf had I not picked it up and flicked through the first few pages and really enjoyed them. The cover is a tad bland for my liking and I think it certainly makes the book like it is aimed at an older audience than me (early 20's) which is a shame because the story within can appeal across the generations but perhaps might be held up by its cover. I have never read anything by Sue Welfare, who also writes under the names Kate Lawson and Gemma Fox, so I was curious to see what her book would be like and hoped for the best!

24 March 2011

Book Review: An Ideal Wife by Gemma Townley

Jessica Wild-Wainwright is happy at last. She seems settled, married to her gorgeous husband Max who seems to love her more than ever and has a great job in Advertising that she actually enjoys and is good at. However, Jessica is still hiding a secret from Max about her money and her ex-friend Hugh, and she's determined to make sure Max never finds out about it, so sets about becoming the Ideal Wife. She sets herself targets to complete from learning to cook to volunteering at the homeless shelter once a week, but as with Jess, nothing is ever easy. Not to mention the odd trunk that Ivanka is wanting her to urgently hide, and the annoying audit at work which seems to come at the worst time for Jessica and Max. Will she be able to become the Ideal Wife or are her secrets going to get in the way of her secret mission?!
This is Gemma Townley's third novel in her Jessica Wild series, and having loved the first two novels, I was really excited to read this one. I love that the covers all match, all follow suit with their blank faced characters and bold use of colour, and certainly look good together on a shelf. This one is styled in blue, and at just over 250 pages, isn't a long book at all, but that didn't bother me too much as I find long books can drag on and bore me a bit.  It has been a while since the release of the last book, but I was sure it wouldn't matter too much and that I would be able to slip back in with these characters fairly easily as I seem to with other series' that I read in the genre.

23 March 2011

Author Interview: Claire Irvin

Debut author Claire Irvin, author of the brilliant new novel Cougars, has kindly agreed to an author interview with us, and we were really excited to ask Claire lots of our burning questions about her and her new book, so with thanks to Claire and Hannah at Little, Brown, enjoy the interview with the lovely Claire Irvin!

Q1. Tell us about your book "Cougars" in one sentence!

Cougars is the sexy, sassy and sophisticated story of one woman’s journey of self-discovery – a glamorous, zeitgeisty tale that will resonate with every reader’s life, whoever she is and whatever she does…

Q2. The subject of cougars seems to be quite popular these days, even creating aTV show starring Courtney Cox. How much notice did you take of shows such as this, and other celebrity news about cougars when writing the book?

As Editor of SHE it’s my job to channel the zeitgeist and pick up on social trends, and celebrities’ lives – even though they are so much more extreme than my life or the lives of my friends – are often a good way to spot them. With cougars, it wasn’t so much that women weren’t already dating younger men, but that society was about to accept it as normal rather than something a little out of the ordinary. So when Demi, Madonna and Sam started proudly showing off their younger beaus it was a sure sign that the women I know were about to start doing the same. And yes, I do watch Cougar Town – I love the self-deprecating humour and the way Courtney Cox’s character, like so many women, is at the hub of her own busy, crazy, kooky world – but I watch it for enjoyment only!

21 March 2011

Book Review: That Gallagher Girl by Kate Thompson

Cat Gallagher is about to liven up the town of Lissamore. She's a bit of a free spirit - she doesn't get along with her famous artist father who is rather partial to a lot of drink, and hates her wicked stepmother with a passion. She finds herself homeless and starts squatting in various empty homes. One of those empty homes happens to belong to some dear to Lissamore resident Rio Kinsella's heart - her son Finn's Hollywood heart-throb father Shane. Rio finds herself in a shocking personal situation when a dear friend  becomes ill, and does something born out of a desperation to keep them happy, despite the knock on effect it has on everyone around her, including her son Finn and his new friend Cat Gallagher. Will Rio and Cat be able to sort out of the messes that are their lives, and finally settle down to be happy once and for all?
This book is the third book in Kate Thompson's Lissamore series, following The Kinsella Sisters and The O'Hara Affair and I have read the whole series so far, so I was very much looking forward to reading this. I loved the cover the moment I saw it, it looks very fresh and summery, and certainly suits the book quite well. It is a large paperback style, which isn't my preferred type of book as I find them a bit big for my little hands, but either way I sat down one evening and got ready to give it a read.

17 March 2011

Book Review: New Beginnings by Fern Britton

Christie Lynch hasn't had it easy. Her husband Nick suddenly died, and Christie has been left bringing up their two children on her own, as well as the debts her husband left her with and the big house that needs a lot of work doing to it. So when Christie is offered the chance to appear on hit TV show "Tart Talk", she takes it and quickly becomes a huge success. She then finds herself given the job of replacing the queen of Daytime TV Gilly when she goes on maternity leave, although not without a fight. Christie soon finds herself struggling with the confines of fame, especially with her children Libby and Fred finding it hard too, never mind the fact Christie is finding herself becoming attracted to single neighbour Richard. Will Christie be able to juggle her responsibilities at work and at home, as well as find out what her agent Julia Keen is up to AND make everyone happy all at the same time? Will it a new beginning or a bad ending for Christie?

Fern Britton is of course best known as a TV presenter on shows such as This Morning, but now she has turned her hand to writing books as well as her TV career. Reception to celebrity written books has been quite mixed from the awful (Penny Smith) to the pretty good (Coleen Nolan, Sharon Osbourne) so I wasn't sure exactly which camp Fern's book was going to slot into. I do like Fern on telly, she is quite easy to relate to so I hoped that would come across in her book, and be an easy read for anyone who picks it up. I wasn't overly inspired by the cover, it looks quite generic and doesn't stand out as anything new at all which was a shame, as I felt they could have done something quite different with this.

Book Review: Getting Away With It by Julie Cohen

"Liza Haven couldn't wait to escape the small village where she grew up with her perfect identical twin sister, Lee. Her life in LA as a stunt woman is reckless, fast and free - and that's just the way she likes it. But when a near-fatal mistake drives her home, she finds Lee gone and everyone in the village mistaking her for her twin sister. Liza has to deal with her ailing mother, the family ice cream business, and Lee's dangerously attractive boyfriend. Liza's always been the bad twin, but as she struggles to keep up the masquerade and puzzle out where her sister has gone, she realises it's not so simple. She's spent her whole life getting away with it - is it finally time to face up to who she really is and where she really belongs?"

Rating: 5/5

The book focuses of Liza Haven as our main character, and her twin sister Lee as the more minor character, but none the less she is still very much involved in the book. Liza has a pretty free life, doing daredevil stunts for money in the Hollywood film industry, whilst phoning her sister for updates once a month if she remembers. Liza isn't close to her family, and feels better off miles away where they can't bother her. However, when she has a shocking acciddent, Liza wants to be closer with her sister and so returns home to Stoneguard much to Lee's delight. She doesn't expect though for her sister to abandon her without a word on the eve of a special party leaving Liza to pick up the pieces and this is where the fun begins.

Liza becomes Lee... she answers to her name, takes on her lifestyle, even the care of the mother she hasn't spoken to for 10 years. I really thought Liza would be caught out early on, I have friends who are identical twins and can tell them apart in an instant yet the town of Stoneguard was fooled by Liza's deception, and I was constantly on edge wondering when someone would twig. Liza's main problem comes in the way of Lee's on/off boyfriend Will Naughton, a rather posh "Lord of the Manor" type who Liza can't stand... it causes a few funny moments when she reacts as Liza when she should be Lee! The other characters in the town, from Doris at the Haven's ice-cream shop to Ma Gamble, the town busybody were all perfectly written, and I'm sure we all know a "Ma Gamble" in our own town!

Perhaps the most touching thing about this book is the storyline between Liza and her mother. She has terminal Alzheimer's disease and refuses to take treatment for it, preferring to stay at home alone with just a carer for company until "Lee" can come and see her. Cohen has tackled this issue of this awful and destroying disease very well, showing it not just affects the sufferer but those around them too, and how important it is to have your friends and family around you. Liza's character struggled with it at first, and it was very moving to read how she came to create a relationship with her mother despite the fact she didn't always know who she was, and by the end it was very emotional and touching to read. I like how this more serious plot was easily mixed in with the twin-switch storyline, and it was very well done indeed.

Overall, I thought this was a superb book and I am so glad that I picked it up to read it. From the gorgeous cover to the excellent story within, there isn't anything to dislike about this book and I felt quite sad when it was over. However, I fully expect that Cohen will continue to write stand alone novels, because there is certainly room in the market for fabulous chick lit like this. I loved every page, every character, and Liza was the perfect lead character - she was funny, kind and natural all the way through, there was nothing to hate about her, even though she was deceiving everyone. I can't recommend this book highly enough, it's just brilliant!

14 March 2011

Book Review: RSVP by Helen Warner

Anna has never really gotten over her broken relationship with Toby, so when she receives an invitation to the wedding of Toby and wife-to-be Rachel, she is devastated and convinced her life is over. Her best friend Clare is on hand to help Anna snap out of her maudlin state of mind, and convinces Anna that it would be closure for her to attend the wedding. However, neither woman counts on their nemesis Ella de Bourg being present - after all Ella was the one who ruined everything between Toby and Anna. Anna's miserable, Rachel is nervous and unsure she's doing the right thing, Toby loves Rachel but is sure he loves someone else too, and Clare just wants someone to love. Is happiness for all of them too much to ask, or will the wedding bring out a few truths that will shatter their worlds forever?

I love reading debut novels - there is something about having no expectations or pre-conceived thoughts about an author when you pick up a book, and a debut novel is usually one that can deliver both of these things for me. This is Helen Warner's first outing into the chick lit world, and a corker of one it is too. From it's bold and beautiful turquoise cover to the riveting time-hopping story within, everything about RSVP draws you in and keeps you wanting to read until you've turned the last page and are then disappointed when it's over. That's the kind of debut I love, and that is what Helen Warner delivered here for me!

10 March 2011

Book Review: Cougars by Claire Irvin

Caroline Walker has a pretty good life. She's 42, married to her husband and together they have a gorgeous daughter Rachel who makes them very proud. However, her world quickly falls apart when she finds out husband Les has been having an affair behind her back, and promptly walks out on the marriage with her dignity intact. Caroline is shocked to be single, something she hasn't done for many years and her best friend Mary-Anne is determined to get her back on the market, even tempting her become a Cougar and hunt down a younger man. Soon Caroline strikes up a friendship with Adam, a young man not much older than her own daughter, but she likes the feeling she gets with her younger man. Is Caroline prepared for the backlash that comes with being a Cougar and can she really put her past behind her for good?

Cougars is author Claire Irvin's debut novel. Claire actually works as editor for SHE magazine, and has worked on some other high-profile mags too so certainly has some experience in writing for women. The book's startling red cover ensures it will certainly jump out at people on the book shelves in shops, and I quite like it, it does suit the book well. I was curious to find out how Irvin would portray the theme of Cougars, it certainly does seem to be a popular theme these days, with a television show starring Courtney Cox called Cougar Town also being a popular foray into the topic. I was curious about Irvin would deal with the subject, and so I began to read the book.

I'll be honest and say when I began the book, I wasn't especially taken by it. I found it a little slow and hard to get into but I persevered with it and soon I began to get involved in the story and found it picked up to a pace where I found myself enjoying it a lot more. Caroline was a character I quite liked straight away. She is a very strong woman, and she seems to carry on quite well despite her husband's betrayal. She outwardly handles her break-up quite well, determined to put her business and daughter first and I liked that about her - she doesn't want her husband to see how much it has knocked her for six that's she been betrayed. However, I do question some of her actions later in the book which seem at odds with her stance throughout the book which was a bit of a shame. I did enjoy the beginning of the book, Caroline taking a pregnancy test and wondering which man she was pregnant by, then the book returned again to 9 months previous to this prologue to tell us the story of how Caroline got herself into that situation.

Relationships are at the crux of the book, and I expected that Caroline would suddenly be sleeping around London to enjoy her new found singledom but Irvin chose not to go down this route, instead choosing to give Caroline a relationship with a much younger boy, along with all the hassles that it brings with it, including upsetting the dynamic between mother and daughter, and I think Irvin wrote this part especially well. She conveyed young Rachel's feelings really well and I felt this was a quite realistic. However, I was a little shocked at the other relationships in the books, those of Caroline's friends Mary Anne and Esther, both of whom are Cougars and enjoying extra-marital relations yet apparently that is okay and Caroline isn't bothered, despite her own husband's affair. It seemed a little hypocritical to me but certainly added a different element to the book.

The issues in the book are quite important, especially in the modern world in which we live where a lot of things which once would have been a bit taboo are now far more widely accepted and spoken about, and women in Caroline's situation is one of them. Irvin deals with the subject really well, not making it anything too over-the-top but believable, and treads carefully around all of the issues too. The problems at Caroline's work, Sapphires and Rubies, deserved perhaps more significance in the book than they got, and also a harder storyline at the end involving one of Caroline's friends, but of course these stories do have to take a back seat to the more plot-lead one.

It was an enjoyable read, I was drawn in by Caroline's life and I liked how the ending was left somewhat open.. I wonder if Irvin will be revisiting Caroline and co once more! Irvin documents Caroline's insecurities and worries about dating a much younger man very well, and I can certainly imagine that her feelings are those of a lot of older women dating younger men, the worry of what they see in you and that they're going to run off with someone their own age. This gives the book a hint of realism, and I liked Caroline all the more for it. The book wasn't at all what I expected and I liked that it was different and perhaps a bit more "grown-up" about the issue. It's a very strong debut and I'll look forward to reading more from Claire Irvin in the future.

Rating: 4/5

8 March 2011

Book Review: The Secret Shopper Affair by Kate Harrison

Emily, Grazia and Sandie all met when they were secret shoppers, and all in the same boat. Now things have changed dramatically for each of the women, and it's pushing their friendships to the limit. Sandie is happily engaged to Toby Garnett, heir to the Garnett store throne and is pregnant with their first child. She's struggling to balance her career, her family and the renovations on her home. Meanwhile, Emily is very jealous of Sandie's pregnancy, as her partner Will has put a ban on them having any more children. Emily loves her son Freddie dearly but would love a new baby, and is beginning to resent their homemade shop in Heartsease for taking all of Will's attention. Finally, Grazia has had to say goodbye to the love of her life, and finds solace in a new skill she hasn't practiced for a long time. Can the ladies mend the rifts that are opening between them, and realise that their friendship is more important than anything else?

The Secret Shopper Affair is the third book in Kate Harrison's The Secret Shopper series, and it's one I have been eagerly awaiting for a while now! I really enjoyed the previous 2 outings with the three ladies who are now very familiar tome, so when a hardback copy of this arrived on my doorstep, I couldn't wait to get stuck in. I do like the new cover design, but I find it odd that Orion have changed the design for the series on the third book... what was wrong with the old design?! Either way, I hoped that wouldn't affect the story inside, which of course it shouldn't, and sat down to read.

3 March 2011

Book Review: Without Him by Fiona O'Brien

Shelley thought she had it all - a loving husband, a gorgeous house and most importantly her 3 beautiful. However, her world is shattered when husband Charlie runs off without a word after his business empire collapses around them. Shelley's house is sold from under her feet, she's left with no money, and 3 children who don't understand where their dad has gone. Shelley is forced to move in with her mother-in-law Vera who hasn't seen the family for years after an argument with Charlie, something Shelley has never got to the bottom of, and finds herself having to work, look after 3 confused children and keep herself from bursting into tears over a lost marriage. When Russian billionaire Lukaz comes into the picture, Shelley's unsure about his motives after finding out he did business with her estranged husband. Will Shelley be able to hold it all together for her family without her husband and what exactly is Charlie's big secret?

I have previously read one of Fiona O'Brien's books, No Reservations, and I really enjoyed it. It had a great writing style, a well constructed plot that kept me gripped and was just overly very enjoyable. When Fiona contacted us asking us if we wanted to review her latest books, I jumped at the chance because they sounded great, and I was hoping they would be as good as the previous book I've read. Without Him is Fiona's latest title, and is released in the UK in April, having previously been published in Ireland in 2010. My cover is slightly different to the green pictured here, being tones of purple which I find much nicer, and I think the cover suits the book well enough.