The Vacation (aka Welcome to Wherever You Are) by John Marrs #BookReview

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How far would you run to escape your past?

Venice Beach, Los Angeles. A paradise on earth.

Tourists flock to the golden coast and the promise of Hollywood.

But for eight strangers at a beach front hostel, there is far more on their mind than an extended vacation.

All of them are running from something. And they all have secrets they’d kill to keep . . .

Originally published as Welcome to Wherever You Are, this is a re-edited release perfect for fans of T. M. Logan.

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5_Star_Rating_System_4_and_a_half_stars_1457015900_81_246_96_2 / 5_Star_Rating_System_5_stars_1457015727_81_246_96_2

A classic John Marrs, do I need to say more? It doesn’t matter if you read his debut first or last, it’s as brilliant as the rest of them. It is set up in the same way as The One and The Passengers with multiple characters so if you enjoyed those you’ll enjoy The Vacation too.

Welcome to Wherever You Are was the only novel of his that I hadn’t read yet. It is his very first novel, published in 2015 if I’m not mistaken and re-published in 2021, and I kept it for a special day where I absolutely needed an absorbing read, but suddenly the wait for Keep It In The Family became too long. It’s been published on October 18, 2022 meanwhile so I’ll probably postpone reading this at least a few months. I know, women readers, don’t try to understand :-).

So this story follows a number of lodgers at the Venice Beach Hotel: Tommy who went backpacking with his friend Sean, Savannah who fled her home and is now looking over her shoulder all the time, Declan and Matty who had their reasons to go on a world tour from Ireland, Nicole and her friend Eric on a special mission and Jake who tries very hard to just blend in.

They all have their own personal stories and secrets I hadn’t expected and with the short alternating chapters I wanted to keep on reading. I was genuinely flabbergasted so many times! I loved and felt for Tommy because of his family history. He’s sort of the string between all of the characters since he’s the receptionist at the backpacker’s hostel but he also builds friendships (and perhaps a little more) with the other occupants. There were a few other heartbreaking moments too though with one that nearly brought tears to my eyes.

I can’t applaud this author enough, he’s able to draw me in and have me hooked in a matter of a few chapters, which is quite an accomplishment when you have so many characters, and he finds the perfect balance in all of his novels. I wish I could say more about the twists and turns but you’d want to find these out on your own, so all I can say is that they’re very very good.

This book was awesome, so if you’re also wanting to be surprised, this one’s definitely for the list.

I bought a copy of this novel. This is my honest opinion.

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The Cruise by Catherine Cooper #BookReview

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A glamorous ship
During a New Year’s Eve party on a large, luxurious cruise ship in the Caribbean, the ship’s dancer, Lola, goes missing.

Everyone on board has something to hide
Two weeks later, the ship is out of service, laid up far from land with no more than a skeleton crew on board. And then more people start disappearing…

No one is safe
Why are the crew being harmed? Who is responsible? And who will be next?

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This is the second novel I read by this author and after having been impressed with her debut novel The Chalet I couldn’t resist this new mystery set in another secluded location. I’ve not been on a cruise ship yet but the author seemed to know the ins and outs of life on a cruise ship so well and described it so vividly that I almost feel as if I’ve been on one after reading this novel.

The Cruise didn’t let me down, just like last time I was completely engrossed in the chapters set in the past, while the present was puzzling and addictive.

There’s the story of a 15 year old girl named Laura raised by her father. She’s not held captive literally but she has no contact at all with the outside world. This already heartwrenching background of this teenage girl pulled on my heartstrings even more when the consequences of such a life manifest themselves.

Then on New Year’s Eve on the ship there’s one of the staff members missing but reported seen falling overboard, and when the ship is docked for two months before going on their next tour in the Carribean with only a skeleton crew aboard, there’s a murder. The ship’s doctor Stuart, chef Alice and one of the cleaners slash the other part of the trapeze dancer duo, Antonio provide the necessary intrigue in alternating chapters and it seems they all have some secrets they keep close to their hearts. There’s plenty of mystery and secrets which are ultimately unearthed in the last part of the novel so that kept me well on my toes.

The two plotlines were so far removed from each other but it is exactly that contrast that I love, especially when the pieces start to fall into place. There is a connection between the stories and I really enjoyed getting so much background into one of the characters. It wasn’t the biggest surprise though, the biggest twists were ones that made my loyalties change quite a bit in the end and the fact that an author can change my feelings towards characters is another thing that scores high on my reader satisfaction list :-). I can’t say more but there’s quite a few things happening in the last part and someone is being quite devious!

Overall a very enjoyable murder mystery that kept me well entertained and definitely ticked my boxes. If you enjoyed her previous novels you’re guaranteed to enjoy this one too.

I received a free ecopy of this novel from the publisher to read and review. This is still my honest opinion.

Poisened At The Priory – The notorious death of Charles Bravo by Antony M Brown #TrueCrime #ColdCaseJury

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1876. When the newlywed barrister Charles Bravo ingests a rare poison, all evidence suggests suicide.

But in one of the most infamous inquests of all time, a coroner finds it to be an unlawful murder. So, we must ask, what is the truth?

The fourth book in Antony M. Brown’s popular Cold Case Jury series picks apart this notorious case that gripped Victorian Britain – and continues to spark debate to this day. Why did Bravo refuse any help, even when going through agonising pain? Was his wife, with her scandalous past, to blame? Or perhaps it was her former lover, eager to remove his usurper for good… or another sinister hand, moving silently?

In Poisoned at the Priory, Brown compiles the evidence and creates dramatic reconstructions of four main theories of how Charles Bravo may have died – including Agatha Christie’s solution, in her own words, for the very first time.

But was Christie correct? What’s your verdict in this spellbinding case?

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5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars_1457015877_81_246_96_2 / 5_Star_Rating_System_4_and_a_half_stars_1457015900_81_246_96_2

If you love murder mysteries, especially if you’re a fan of Agatha Christie type of novels, then this is a must read. This is a true crime novel and not a fictional tale so not knowing what the truth is in the end is both a blessing and a curse because you’ll never know if you were right. But don’t let that stop you from enjoying this novel because I loved the role I was given as member of the Cold Case Jury, trying to make up my own mind about what happened to Charles Bravo. It might sound easy but it was anything but!

This novel is quite extensive, it first took me back in time to the events leading up to the fatal events and then plays out in great detail a few possible scenarios as to what might have happened. Bravo was married to Florence Ricardo née Campbell and only four months after their marriage he became ill and died a few days later of poisoning. Five doctors stood at his deathbed, called upon by his wife Florence, but he couldn’t be saved.

There are a lot of questions surrounding his death that kept my grey cells working overtime. The first question up for debate was how the poison was administered. Was it in the red wine at dinner, or in the water in his room? You would think that this would be easily determined but those were other times and it’s clear that they gave the patient all of their attention at the time but nobody was thinking of looking for evidence or getting to the bottom of it at the most crucial time so we’re looking at opportunity here most of all.

Even though you can’t even even be absolutely sure about this truth, I found this at least the easiest one to come to a conclusion. The hard work was yet to begin: did Bravo poison himself intentionally, or perhaps accidentally? There were statements made that support this if you believe the source. But there are also a number of murder theories to excite the reader involving Florence’s housemaid Jane Cox, Florence’s ex-lover Doctor Gully and Bravo’s wife Florence herself. Whose word to believe and who lied? I couldn’t make up my mind and needed someone else’s opinion.

And opinions I certainly received, none other than Agatha Christie herself offered her opinion on this mystery. Other doctors of that time expressed their opinions as well, and other authors who wrote about this case in the following years, as well as the author of the novel himself of course. There seem to be as many different opinions as people were asked. I loved reading what everyone’s thoughts were!

I know you want to ask me what I think and I’m actually torn between two very different scenarios.  Bravo’s behaviour was not entirely consistent, so I’m keeping Julian Fellow’s opinion also in mind. He actually turned this historical unsolved case into one of five episodes of a televised crime docudrama series in 2004. My main concern about my initial thought is that it was established he was poisened when he was still alive. If you don’t know who poisened you, wouldn’t you want to know who did it and point fingers at someone? He actually never did that, the five doctors would certainly have mentioned it when questioned, so that is weird. The only trouble is that I don’t see why he would take his own life, get rid of any evidence or not admit what he did while he was suffering so much, so I’m hesitantly inclined to consider a murder scenario as well.

Poisoned at the Priory is so perfect for a book club discussion. This novel has such food for thought and I think you could talk hours about it. After finishing the novel readers can cast their own verdict on a special site mentioned on the first page of the novel and see what other readers thought. I entered my own verdict and the rest of the jury is with me: 59% had the same thought and my runner-up scenario was good for the second largest percentage.

Poisened at the Priory is the fourth crime for the Cold Case Jury. The author has researched and substantiated this case thoroughly with witness statements, photos, expert opinions on the poison… and presented it in a very pleasant way to get through these facts (I thought it a great idea to start with the different scenarios and then follow up with evidence). This was an unexpected treat to read and I can’t wait to read the other books in this series!

I received a free paperback copy of this novel from the publisher Mirror Books. This is my honest opinion.

All Your Twisted Secrets by Diana Urban #BookReview

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Welcome to dinner, and again, congratulations on being selected. Now you must do the selecting.

What do the queen bee, star athlete, valedictorian, stoner, loner, and music geek all have in common? They were all invited to a scholarship dinner, only to discover it’s a trap. Someone has locked them into a room with a bomb, a syringe filled with poison, and a note saying they have an hour to pick someone to kill … or else everyone dies.

Amber Prescott is determined to get her classmates and herself out of the room alive, but that might be easier said than done. No one knows how they’re all connected or who would want them dead. As they retrace the events over the past year that might have triggered their captor’s ultimatum, it becomes clear that everyone is hiding something. And with the clock ticking down, confusion turns into fear, and fear morphs into panic as they race to answer the biggest question: Who will they choose to die?

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5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars_1457015877_81_246_96_2

All Your Twisted Secrets is a slick YA mystery thriller that I decided to read when I learned Urban’s third novel Lying in the Deep (another novel with a locked room setting on a cruise ship), is going to be released in 2023. I’m forever trying to catch up with my tbr pile and I’m so happy I finally took the plunge with her debut. I had a good feeling about this novel and I was right, it made me a happy reader.

Amber finds herself locked up with 5 other teenagers in what she thinks is a dinner that could earn her a scholarship for the school of her dreams. Also present are her boyfriend Robbie, a boy she used to be friends with Diego, Priya who she has fallen out with over her friendship with Sasha, Sasha her newest friend and the one who holds Amber’s future in her hands, and Scott who she doesn’t know very well but who’s rumored to be the school’s drug dealer. In the room with them is a ticking time bomb and a syringe with poison so they have to decide… to kill or be killed. Tick tock!

In alternating chapters there’s on the one hand the panic setting in and heated discussions about who they are going to sacrifice for the group and why, and flashbacks to the past school year where the history between the different characters was explored. The present shows that there’s always a lot more to be discovered when you scratch that surface and so secrets and truths are revealed that consequently have an impact on the group dynamics.

Yes this novel reminded me in a way of One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus and they have every right to be named in the same sentence. Maybe I rated that other novel a little higher because I had no idea how that was going to end and I sort of knew here, even though I had some reservations because the threat seemed more than real.. and if they didn’t die from a bomb or poison, it would probably be from the heat in the room or from killing each other in some other way. Even though I knew some of it, All Your Twisted Secrets still had a few more twists up its sleeve that I couldn’t have predicted and that all made up for it. The secrets really intensified towards the end and the last one was definitely the worst. I couldn’t stand one of the characters after this reveal!

I thoroughly enjoyed reading All Your Twisted Secrets, it was an addictive novel that made me want to read one more chapter every time I thought of putting it down for the night. I found myself a new author and I can’t wait to read her next novel!

I bought an ecopy of this novel. This is my honest opinion.

Reasons To Go Outside by Esme King #BookReview

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Pearl Winter hasn’t been outside in forty-three years.

Since she arrived on Dartmoor as a girl, an isolated family cottage has been her whole world. A place of safety. But now fifty-nine-year-old Pearl is utterly alone – except for the postman, the local crows, and memories of the summer of 1976.

Teenager Connor Matthews feels like a stranger in his own home.

Since his mother’s death he’s been adrift from his remaining family, troubled by the reality of moving on, and unable to see a future ahead. But when Connor begins a summer job as Pearl’s gardener, an unexpected friendship opens the door to a fresh start for them both. If only Pearl and Connor can take the first steps . . .

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5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars_1457015877_81_246_96_2

I received an invitation to read this novel so that’s how it got on my radar but I was doing just fine reading my backlist so I declined the offer. It didn’t let me go however and I kept thinking about it because the main character’s agoraphobia intrigued me, so I ended up buying an ecopy anyway.

The novel starts in August 1976 with 16 year old Pearl, her mother Lana and stepfather Ray in a car, arriving at their new home Highview. Pearl then already struggles to get from the car to the front door, she knows she won’t step a foot outside after their arrival and unbelievably so, her resolution becomes true.

Jumping to the present, Pearl is 60 years old. She spends her days cleaning, reading, feeding the crows from a distance, and as for exercise she walks the stairs up and down. But her parents have passed away and now the garden really needs tending. 18 year-old Connor answers her ad because he loves the outdoors and gardening and soon enough he comes inside and she feeds him cake, they start talking and even with the major age gap a warm friendship starts to develop between them. Sometimes all you need is for someone not to judge right? In other chapters there’s Nate who was made redundant at the insurance company after 30 years of loyalty. He finds himself making new friends too at the Happy Tails Rescue Centre, with the four-legged ones and others.

I loved how Pearl and Nate’s characters grew and found happiness, they each have a set of wonderful side characters. Unfortunately it doesn’t change Pearl into going outside or Nate from wanting to be on his own. In flashbacks I learned how Pearl and Nate knew each other quite well when they were teenagers. It was a mystery why they hadn’t stayed in touch because they still think about each other after all this time and there’s a longing that is quite endearing. You have to imagine though that times were different when she left, the means to stay in touch were not the same as nowadays, there was no mobile phone or internet, and it’s not that her parents didn’t seek help for Pearl’s conditions but the professional help back then was not at all what it would be today, so she didn’t get the help she needed basically.

I believed Nate would be the one to get her to go outside again, if only they could find each other again. But I was surprised that it is someone else who for the very first time gives her an incentive to want to venture outside. I’m not telling more but there is definitely a nasty turn of events that ultimately has a positive effect too. I also finally received an answer to the question I had been asking myself from the start, which is what had happened that made her this way. It all made sense suddenly and it made me feel quite sad for Pearl so there’s definitely not only happy but also some sad moments to be found in this novel.

Summing this novel up I’d say it’s a heart-warming and uplifting novel of friendship and love!

I bought an ecopy of this novel. This is my honest opinion.

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan #BookReview

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Lydia Smith lives a quiet life, spent in the company of her colleagues and customers at the bookstore where she works. But when Joey Molina, a young and mysterious regular, hangs himself in the bookstore and leaves Lydia secret messages hidden in the pages of his books, her world starts to unravel.

Why did Joey do it?

What did he know?

And what does it have to do with Lydia?

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5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars_1457015877_81_246_96_2

Well how could I not go for this novel? Fiction about books and bookstores is like dangling a carrot in front of a rabbit so I readily gave into the temptation of buying this novel when I saw it was on sale at my local bookstore (which is sadly now closed for good), especially when I read the back flap. Thrown in the mix is a past murder mystery and a recent mystifying suicide, and the promise of hidden messages that need to be solved. This sounds like a perfect recipe to me!

Lydia is a bookseller at the Bright Ideas Bookstore. She keeps her past very much to herself, nobody knows that she was a final girl when she was only 10 years old, the only survivor of a mass murder.  She feels a special affection for Joey, one of the store’s misfits – they are often non-customers but she enjoys their presence – so it is shocking that she finds him dead on the first floor. What is also shocking is the photo she finds poking out of his pocket, of her and two of her friends when she was a teenager, before the terrible events that happened to her. How did he get this photo? What were those terrible events? Why did he commit suicide?

Much to her surprise she is handed his meager possessions, mostly books, and while she’s looking through them she notices something off about them. It seems Joey used his books to leave her message and she is eager find out what he meant to tell her, if she can find out how to decipher the clues.

I enjoyed the way the author managed to hide messages in the books and while I could only imagine how it would work I could read the message the way she found it in the books, so I still had part of the fun.

Of course there’s also the photo, the link to her past. I enjoyed the gradual reveal of Lydia’s memories and finding out more about that fatal day until finally the horrific scene is played out. It still didn’t explain the current events though. It took until the last part of the novel to discover how Joey’s tied into this and I have to say that I’m impressed with the twists and turns, which ultimately gave him the reason to take his own life.

The only remarks I could make about this story is that I didn’t understand why she wasn’t talking to her father, if it was to create mystery and suspicion towards him at the start it didn’t have the intended effect on me. Her relationship with David also didn’t hold any value to me and I don’t know why he was added, she could have been single just as well. Was it only to demonstrate how hard she found it to trust someone? It certainly felt hollow to me and David never became an interesting character. Other than those minor notes I think this is a very enjoyable debut novel. It starts off as a bit quirky but it develops into a far darker and complex story then I expected so I was pleasantly surprised it was so engrossing. I wouldn’t mind at all reading another novel by this author.

I bought a paperback of this novel. This is my honest opinion.

For Your Own Good by Samantha Downing #BookReview

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Teddy Crutcher has won Teacher of the Year at the elite Belmont Academy, home to the best and brightest.

He says his wife couldn’t be more proud—though no one has seen her in a while.

Teddy really can’t be bothered with a few mysterious deaths on campus that are looking more and more like murder, or with the student digging a little too deep into Teddy’s personal life. His main focus is pushing these kids to their full academic potential.

All he wants is for his colleagues—and the endlessly meddlesome parents—to stay out of his way. If not, well, they’ll get what they deserve.

It’s really too bad that sometimes excellence comes at such a high cost.

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star three and a half / 5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars_1457015877_81_246_96_2

This novel is about Teddy Crutcher. He’s Teacher of the Year at Belmont and his award hangs proudly on the otherwise pristine white walls of his classroom. Teddy is… quite the character. He loves teaching, even teaching some to be better people. If they don’t want to listen they just need to feel it, it’s all for their own good. Unfortunately Teddy makes a mistake and then things only go from bad to worse.

For Your Own Good was fun to read, even with all the murders that happened. A serial killer as a teacher, I didn’t need to hear more. You don’t have to take it too seriously but just go along with the wild ride. It was mostly fun because there was a lot of diversion and pingpong in this novel where the blame is put on people you don’t want to see blamed and you didn’t expect them to get sucked into this. As a reader you know better of course and I kept wanting Teddy to be found out.

I was also very afraid for Zach, one of his students who he targets because he always ‘has a smirk on his face’ and looks arrogant. I was expecting him to either get blamed for murder thanks to Teddy or to be murdered by him so I rooted so much for him. There were several times during my reading that I wanted to shout at Zach to be careful, as well as to Teddy’s co-workers that Teddy Crutcher was dangerous. I hoped someone would stop him.

All I wanted was for Teddy to get his comeuppance for what he did, I looked forward to that moment. I’m feeling a bit ambiguous at the end of the novel by the way it was wrapped up. It’s a good ending, surprising as well, but not exactly how I wanted it to end. It fell a bit flat for me because I wanted the big guns to come out so the whole school would be shook with the revelation. Obviously, it was a different ending than what I had in mind.

Overall, this novel was not at all what I had expected on any front but I found it quite entertaining. Maybe one to give to your children to read, you never know it’ll help keep hem in check at school 🙂

I bought an ecopy of this novel. This is my honest opinion.

We Know You Know (previously Stone Mothers) by Erin Kelly #BookReview

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‘I heard the swish of falling paper. I grazed my knuckles retrieving a beige folder, its grubby white ribbon loose. Looping doctor’s handwriting. Addresses. Dates. Names. Photographs! I had found the patients whose notes would bring the past back to life.’

A lifetime ago, a patient escaped Nazareth mental asylum. They covered their tracks carefully. Or so they thought.

Thirty years ago, Marianne Smy committed a crime then fled from her home to leave the past behind. Or so she thought.

Now, Marianne has been forced to return. Nazareth asylum has been converted to luxury flats, but its terrible hold on her is still strong. A successful academic, a loving mother and a loyal wife, she fears her secret being revealed and her world shattering.

She is right to be scared.

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It’s a good year in psychological thriller-land! Believe it or not but this is my first read by Erin Kelly. I do have a Kindle ecopy of He Said She Said but I (still) haven’t read that one yet, probably because of all the hype surrounding it at the time. After reading We Know You Know however I am pretty confident that I will enjoy it very much indeed.

I had no idea that this novel was published before under the title Stone Mothers (it actually refers to this early on in the novel, explaining that the Victorians had such faith in their architecture that they actually thought the design of the building could nurse sick patients back to health) so be aware of that. I don’t really have a preference either way, but I do wonder why they decided to change such a unique book title for something more generic. Maybe it sounded too cold and negative?

Anyway, We Know You Know was a very enjoyable read and a well-written novel that kept the mystery very much in the air. It all starts with Marianne who is not at all pleased when she sees the country getaway her husband bought as a surprise so she could be closer to her sister and her mother who’s suffering dementia. There was a reason for her visceral reaction which is slowly revealed in the part of the story told from the perspective of Helen Greenlaw.

Up until the start of her narrative all I knew was that Marianne and Jesse and MP Helen Greenlaw have a history, that Helen’s the enemy and that they share a secret among the three of them. Unfortunately their bond is compromised and their secret is threatening to come out. I was so ready to hate Helen but the funny thing is, I never did. I was completely on board and felt for her. It’s impossible not to with everything she had to fight for and against. There’s a whole part of the novel about Helen’s history and it sucked me even deeper into the story, showing a different angle in the end of the unfolding events that has bound the three of them for decades. I had an idea what bound them together but even if I had this inkling I really enjoyed how the story gave so much background and was set up leading to it. The last part was told by Marianne’s daughter Honor, which was a surprise on its own since she’s more of a side character, but it gave the story an ending I hadn’t seen coming.

We Know You Know is a solid page turner that I enjoyed reading and had a few interesting and strong female characters.

I bought a paperback copy of this novel online (when it was only 2£ on ‘the ‘zon’). This is my honest opinion.

The Spanish Love Deception by Elena Armas #BookReview

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A wedding in Spain. The most infuriating man. Three days to convince your family you’re actually in love. .

Catalina Martín desperately needs a date to her sister’s wedding. Especially when her little white lie about her American boyfriend has spiralled out of control. Now everyone she knows – including her ex-boyfriend and his fiancée – will be there.

She only has four weeks to find someone willing to cross the Atlantic for her and aid in her deception. NYC to Spain is no short flight and her family won’t be easy to fool. . . But even then, when Aaron Blackford – the 6’4″, blue-eyed pain in the arse – offers to step in, she’s not tempted even for a second. Never has there been a more aggravating, blood-boiling and insufferable man.

But Catalina is desperate and as the wedding gets closer the more desirable an option Aaron Blackford becomes. . .

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5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars_1457015877_81_246_96_2

I couldn’t help myself indulging in one of my guilty pleasures, an enemies-to-lovers, fake-dating romance.

I’m going to beat you to it so yes, it does show similarities to The Hating Game by Sally Thorne, some might even find it too similar but I don’t get why would they be disappointed, I couldn’t be happier. When I had finished reading that first office romance novel I wanted more of it, much more in fact, and my prayers were answered when I discovered The Spanish Love Deception.

This novel had everything I wished for, the slow burn, the attraction and I adore novels with major love declarations. I want to be cocooned in love and feel the emotion dripping from the pages. Elena Armas certainly made the characters say the right things, they would melt the coldest heart.

The only small fault I found in this novel is that hating is rather a strong word to use this time, Lina shows some hostility towards Aaron but I never sensed any retaliation from his side, or anything that made me dislike him. Okay, maybe the fact that Aaron’s tall was also repeated a few times too many but other than that I had a pretty good image how this Greek God with blue eyes looked like. I fell for his gentle and caring character even more than for his features though. I believe Lina was a bit naive when she didn’t know if what they were saying and doing was fake or real but I could only root for her to open her heart and let Aaron in.

This is an existing trope done so many times over so I’m not going to say it’s the most surprising novel but there were a few special touches to it, like Lina being Spanish (I loved the sparse Spanish spoken here and there) and part of the story taking place with her family in Spain as well as the topic of her experience of having a relationship with someone in a position of power. It explained Lina’s fear and struggle in the present and made me more understanding why she was holding back.

Overall a great debut with a HEA (that scene in Seattle!) that was more emotional than I expected. I’ve put the follow-up The American Roommate on my wishlist to read next!

I received a free ecopy of this novel from the publisher Simon & Schuster via Netgalley. This is my honest opinion.

The Key To My Heart by Lia Louis #BookReview

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Can you ever really find the one after ‘the one’?

Some people spend their whole lives trying to find the one. But Natalie had found him – and married him. And then Russ died.

Two years ago, her whole world was shattered. Still now, she feels like she’s trying to piece her broken heart back together, one day at a time.

But then she finds a sheet of music – one that only Russ would know – in the piano stool in St. Pancras station where she’s secretly been playing for the last few months.

For the first time, Natalie realizes that maybe life does still hold a little magic. And with every note she plays, she feels as if she’s unlocking another fragment of her heart…

But will she ever truly find love again after she’d already found forever?

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5_Star_Rating_System_4_and_a_half_stars_1457015900_81_246_96_2 / 5_Star_Rating_System_5_stars_1457015727_81_246_96_2

When you ask me to list a few romance authors I love reading, Lia Louis is definitely on that list. There are not many authors who can give me a book high but that’s how I feel right now. I absolutely fell for Dear Emmie Blue and The Key to my Heart is a very close second. This novel gave me a bad case of emophilia (it’s a real condition!) but it only concerns fictional characters so far.

The Key To My Heart is about Natalie’s life after having lost her husband two years earlier. People feel she should have moved on by now but Natalie is stuck in a space in her head between the past and the future, she’s struggling to cope alone with some things, some of a practical nature and some more emotional. She doesn’t know for instance what to do with the cottage they bought together and were going to renovate, nor how to tell her friends she’s not ready to date anyone.

I loved the mysterious element in the novel of someone leaving sheet music in the piano seat at the train station. It was very clever how the author wrote this novel so it wasn’t obvious who it was, not even to me. I enjoyed how the music was a lifeline and made her open up. She’s on a quest to find out who left it and why (both were quite surprising!) and while she’s sharing her findings with her friend Shauna who works at the coffee shop Goode’s, Tom The Target and her girlfriends, she’s slowly healing as well and getting her appetite for life back. It was such an original approach and if I ever find a piano in a train station it’ll certainly make me smile from now on.

There’s lots of incredibly wonderful banter in this novel that starts almost as soon as I opened it, so the connection between Natalie and one of the male characters was immediate and the possibility where this could lead was already dreamed up in my head. But she’s not interested in a romance and he’s scared of love and crocodiles so instead they become great friends. His support was great and I saw how she begun to change. Of course there’s also another swoonworthy man that crosses Natalie’s path and he understands her grief better than anyone else, having lost a family member himself. Would he be the one who makes her heart full again? I actually had my heart set a little bit on the first guy but they were both adding to the story and supporting Natalie in a beautiful way.

Lia Louis knows how to struck a chord with her writing. A big part of the novel is about Natalie’s friendship with the people around her and her connection with Tom and Joe, and that alone gave me a warm and good feeling but in the end there’s a very touching and epic scene that totally got to me. She definitely found the key to MY heart.

I feel I can’t do this novel justice with my review so forget all I said and just remember I can’t recommend this novel enough!

I bought a paperback copy of this novel. This is my honest opinion.