Book Reviews

Book Review: Christmas Spirit by Nicola May

coverI am loving all the Christmas stories being released and I’m very excited to be part of the blog tour for Christmas Spirit, the novella from Nicola May. 

It’s two days before Christmas – and Evie Harris finds herself both manless and jobless. After a chance encounter with handsome Greg (and egged on by her toy-boy-eating friend, Bea) she agrees to work at a homeless shelter on Christmas Day.

Striking up an unlikely friendship with homeless Yves, Evie begins an unwitting journey of spiritual awakening, all set against the sparkling winter backdrop of London landmarks. 

A New Year’s Eve revelation is on its way . . . but will it leave Evie with a happy heart, or will she allow the pre-Christmas past to dictate her future?

Two days before Christmas, Evie has found herself without a job and without her boyfriend.

By chance, she meets Greg and ends up volunteering at a homeless shelter on Christmas Day.

This is also where she meets the mysterious Yves.

Evie embarks on a spiritual journey she doesn’t expect but could be the start of better things.

Oh my! This book.

From beginning to end this novella had me hooked. I don’t have anything bad to say about it. It’s not a long book but I devoured it very quickly because I did not want to stop reading.

Evie has many things happen to her. Still reeling from one thing something else quickly comes along. We’ve all had experience of that at one time or another.

Greg is a smashing love interest and the mysterious Yves adds some additional magic to this festive plot. Who is he? Where has he come from?

Christmas Spirit

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Book Review: Christmas With The East End Angels by Rosie Hendry

christmas with east end angelsIt’s great to be welcoming Rosie Hendry to the blog today and the tour for her new novel, Christmas With The East End Angels. 

It’s the most wonderful time of the year – and the East End Angels are working hard to keep Londoners safe.

Frankie is trying hard to keep everything together. She can count on the support of the East End Angels, even in the face of family trouble.

Winnie’s beloved husband, Mac, is putting himself at risk every day in the bomb disposal unit and she’s finding it hard while he’s away.

Bella is growing in confidence and happiness. Her friendship with Winnie’s brother, James, is getting closer all the time.

Christmas on the Home Front is a hard time with loved ones far away – but the women of the Auxiliary Ambulance service are making do and mending.

This is the latest in the East End Angels series and my introduction to Winnie, Frankie and Bella. This does work as a standalone novel. I didn’t feel like I was playing catch up at all. Rosie’s writing style has an ease to it that made me get fully involved very quickly.

The women are working at Station 75 during WWII. Even though the Blitz has abated, there is still a threat that something will happen especially as news from abroad seems to only get worse.

I could tell straight away that the three main characters had a close friendship – one that would survive many things and the kind that you want during a turbulent time. I loved the three of them together and in this novel, they are joined by Rose, originally from Austria (so you know from the offset that her story is going to be emotional and heartbreaking.)

It was nice reading about an element of war-time London that I was less familiar with. It’s inspirational seeing how these women rallied and did what they could to ‘keep calm and carry on.’

The atmosphere Rosie creates really pulled me in to the world of these women. Despite the fact that it’s a bleak time in Britain’s history, these characters bring hope warmth, love and laughter. For me, this book is very much about them. Each girl is facing their own personal battle. It just happens to be set in WWII which makes their efforts to keep going all the more poignant.

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Book Review: Winter Without You by Beth Good

Winter Without YouIt’s a pleasure to welcome Beth Good to Novel Kicks and the blog blast for her new novel, Winter Without You which has been released today by Quercus. 

After the tragic death of her boyfriend, Hannah Clitheroe is hiding away from the world. But when she discovers she’s inherited a house in Cornwall, she knows it’s time to face reality.

Her estranged grandmother lived in Kernow House for years, but Hannah soon realises someone else thinks it’s rightfully theirs: Raphael Tregar, a difficult man who quickly gets under her skin.

But as winter sets in, there’s one more thing that keeps her up at night, and the rising fear that she may not find her true home in Cornwall after all…

Winter Without You focuses on Hannah. Having recently lost her boyfriend, Hannah has retreated to Cornwall where her Grandmother has left her a house in her will.

It’s not going to be as straightforward for Hannah though especially when she meets her unfriendly neighbour, Raphael.

This is a love story that is further enhanced by the setting and the people.

Hannah has had her share of tragedy. From the beginning, she is very easy to empathise with and like and therefore is a wonderful lead character. I sense that beneath all the sadness and grief, she has a strength, determination and most importantly, a sense of hope about her. I very much wanted her to succeed and felt invested in her story.

Raphael (I love that name) is brooding and mysterious. He is also at times very unpleasant but I certainly wanted to be wrong about him.

The setting in which her recently acquired inheritance sits sounds absolutely beautiful – somewhere I would like to visit.

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Book Review: A Christmas Gift by Sue Moorcroft

a christmas giftA big lovely welcome back to Sue Moorcroft. We are very happy to be the first stop on blog tour for her new novel, A Christmas Gift which has been released today by Avon. 

Georgine loves Christmas. The festive season always brings the little village of Middledip to life. But since her ex-boyfriend walked out, leaving her with crippling debts, Georgine’s struggled to make ends meet.

To keep her mind off her worries, she throws herself into organising the Christmas show at the local school. And when handsome Joe Blackthorn becomes her assistant, Georgine’s grateful for the help. But there’s something about Joe she can’t quite put her finger on. Could there be more to him than meets the eye?

Georgine’s past is going to catch up with her in ways she never expected. But can the help of friends new and old make this a Christmas to remember after all?

Welcome to a Middledip Christmas! Yes, it’s ‘that’ time of year again and we can rejoice with the release of the latest novel from Amazon and Sunday Times best-selling author, Sue Moorcroft. And, even better, for long-standing fans, she’s taken us back to Middledip! Don’t worry if you’re new to reading this author, by the time you’ve finished reading this book, you’ll be dying to check her back catalogue to discover more of this enchanting village she has created.

So, what do we have here? Well, I’ll start by stating that you won’t get too much about the story itself from me, as I don’t believe in giving too much away (you’ll find that on other reviews), I prefer to concentrate on other things.

A Christmas Gift Blog Tour - NovA wee snippet of story – Georgine France isn’t having the best of times since her boyfriend walked out on her, leaving her to deal with his debts, and when her sister comes to stay after splitting with her husband for reasons she doesn’t quite reveal, the prospect of producing the Christmas Play for the Performing Arts College she works for, suddenly turns into more work than she’d like. Throw in a blast from the past in the form of the enigmatic Joe Blackthorn, who has more than a few secrets of his own to sort through and you’ve got the enthralling tale of the year!

Sue is a (and I hope she’ll pardon me the choice of word) mistress of emotion, and she takes us through the wringer here, to be sure (Georgine’s father is not in the best of health either). All the main characters are beautifully rounded and, as is always the case with Sue’s novels, she has some of the best secondary characters that could be written. I always feel like I’ve been introduced to a new family by the time I’ve finished reading a Sue Moorcroft story, and that is just the same here.

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Book Review: The Witches of St. Petersburg by Imogen Edwards-Jones

witches of petersburgImogen Edwards-Jones and the blog tour for her new book, The Witches of St. Petersburg joins Novel Kicks today. 

The Russian Empire is on the verge of collapse. Revolution is in the air. The starving stalk the streets of St Petersburg and yet the Imperial Court still commute between their estates and organise their lavish balls.

Two sisters arrive in the city. Princesses from Montenegro; they are famed for their wild beauty and mystical powers. Initially ridiculed and outcast as the daughters of a provincial ‘Goat King’, they react in the only way they know how. They befriend the isolated Tsarina Alexandra and, using their gifts, they help her in her increasingly desperate quest to give birth to a son and heir. The circle closes. The girls are the gateway. Gurus, clairvoyants, holy fools and charlatans all try their luck. Then in one last, doomed, throw of the dice, the sisters introduce Rasputin into the Russian Court…

Based on the true story of the lives of Princess Militza and Princess Anastasia of Montenegro during the dying days of the Russian Empire, The Witches of St Petersburg is a tale of love, lust, power and betrayal at the heart of the Romanov Court.

Although I don’t know too much about it, this part of Russian history has always held a fascination for me and is why I wanted to read this novel especially as it is based on a true story.

Militza was the most fascinating character for me. Her relationship with her sister was also intriguing. There are very much outsiders and I can relate to that.

The overall setting was written so vividly and with much detail. You can tell how much work and love went into writing this book.

I did find it hard to keep up with who everyone was to begin with. There was a few times where I had to refer to the handy character guide at the beginning but this wasn’t a huge deal; just hard to keep up with all the Russian names.

The plot is engaging and had me wanting to keep reading. It has also made me want to find out more about this period in history.

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Book Review: Miss Marley by Vanessa Lafaye

I was very happy to be asked to join the blog tour for Miss Marley by Vanessa Lafaye. This novella is due to be released on 1st November 2018 by HQ.

miss marley coverBefore A Christmas Carol there was… Miss Marley

A seasonal tale of kindness and goodwill

Orphans Clara and Jacob Marley live by their wits, scavenging for scraps in the poorest alleyways of London, in the shadow of the workhouse. Every night, Jake promises his little sister ‘tomorrow will be better’ and when the chance to escape poverty comes their way, he seizes it despite the terrible price.

And so Jacob Marley is set on a path that leads to his infamous partnership with Ebenezer Scrooge. As Jacob builds a fortress of wealth to keep the world out, only Clara can warn him of the hideous fate that awaits him if he refuses to let love and kindness into his heart…

In Miss Marley, Vanessa Lafaye weaves a spellbinding Dickensian tale of ghosts, goodwill and hope – a perfect prequel to A Christmas Carol.

 

Jacob and his sister Clara Belle Marley know poverty. Banished to the workhouse after the death of their parents, they learn early how to look out for themselves. When they suddenly come into a small bit of money, they manage to build a better life. Whilst Clara eventually wants a family, Jacob is fuelled by an ambition to never be poor again no matter what it costs him.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens is possibly one of my favourite stories. For me, it sums up Christmas and everything it should be about. So, as a fan, I am quite protective of it.
Saying that though, when I read about this story, I was intrigued. I love it when I can read something that gives me an insight into what happened before the story we all know and love; provided it is done right. This was done fantastically well.

Miss Marley is told from the point of view of Jacob’s Marley’s sister, Clara Belle. It follows she and her brother from when they are children to adulthood. It focuses on her relationship with her brother, his budding friendship and business transactions with a much younger Ebenezer Scrooge and touches on his relationship with Belle beyond what you see in A Christmas Carol.

Vanessa Lafaye really captured the essence of the original novel but brought something new to it. You can tell that she had a love and respect for the original book. She has brought another aspect to these characters. It’s great to be able to have an idea as to why Jacob appears to Scrooge covered in chains and regret.

This book is about one hundred and fifty pages so it doesn’t take long to read but it’s not hard to get fully immersed in it. I could imagine myself in London surrounded by these characters. Many points in the book had me particularly sad for one character in particular.

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Book Review: Love Punked by Nia Lucas

Love Punked Front coverIt’s the weekend which hopefully means a chance to snuggle up with a book for many of you. Today, Nia Lucas joins me with the blog tour for her new novel, Love Punked.

When her life is irrevocably altered by a post-Rave tryst on her mother’s floral patio recliner, Erin Roberts’ long-standing relationship with Humiliation takes her down a path that’s not so much ‘less well trodden’, more ‘perilous descent down sheer cliffs’.

Armed with a fierce devotion to her best friend and the unrequited love for the boy she might have accidentally married at age seven, when Erin falls pregnant at sixteen, life veers off at a most unexpected tangent.

Her journey to adulthood is far from ordinary as Erin learns that protecting the hearts of those most precious to you isn’t balm enough when your Love Punked heart is as sore as your freshly tattooed arse.

Whilst raising football prodigies and trying not to get stuck in lifts with Social Work clients who hate her, Erin discovers that sometimes you have to circumnavigate the globe to find the very thing that was there all along.

 

Erin has just turned sixteen. She is not the most popular of people with her peers but she knows that all she needs is her best friend Lees. If she could just get Daniel to fancy her too, it would make things even better.

However, when one night changes the course of her life, she has to make some very big adjustments with poignant and sometimes hilarious results.

From the first chapter, I knew that I was going to love Erin and her story.

With her being sixteen at the start of this novel, she is the same age I was in the middle of the 90’s (where this book is primarily set,) I found her very relatable. I saw flashes of awkwardness from my teen years in parts of her story. It made me feel quite nostalgic in places.

 

Love Punked

 

I couldn’t imagine being a mother at her age.

The plot is wonderfully developed, compelling and it all unfolds at a good pace. When I consider how this book begins, I really couldn’t predict how it was going to end.

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Book Review: Roar by Cecelia Ahern

ROAR Jacket High resThere is much excitement here at Novel Kicks today. I am delighted to be the first stop on the blog tour for Roar. This is the new novel from the brilliant Cecelia Ahern. 

Have you ever stood at a crossroads, undecided…Have you ever had a moment when you wanted to roar?

From much-loved, international bestseller Cecelia Ahern come stories for all of us: the women who befriend us, the women who encourage us, the women who make us brave. From The Woman Who Slowly Disappeared to The Woman Who Returned and Exchanged her Husband, discover thirty touching, often hilarious, stories and meet thirty very different women. Each discovers her strength; each realizes she holds the power to make a change.

Witty, tender, surprising, these keenly observed tales speak to us all, and capture the moment when we all want to roar.

Roar is the latest novel from Cecelia Ahern. The book has thirty short stories that has something for every woman.

I have made no secret of the fact that I absolutely adore Cecelia’s novels. When I heard about this one, I was very intrigued to read it. Roar is slightly different to anything she has written before.

This assortment of stories carry a similar theme but all have something unique to say.

All the way through, it looks at women, our sense of self, self-esteem, our relationships with ourselves, with men and other women also.

It’s an interesting and very powerful look at how some of us look at the world and where we see ourselves within it.

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Book Review: No One Cancels Christmas by Zara Stoneley

no one cancels christmasChristmas books equal a very happy Laura and today, I am pleased to be welcoming Zara Stoneley and the blog tour for her new novel, No one Cancels Christmas which has been released today by Harper Impulse. 

It’s the most magical time of the year, and for travel agent Sarah it’s also the busiest! But this year one man threatens to ruin Christmas for Sarah’s customers – Mr Grinch, Will Armstrong.

The Shooting Star Mountain resort is a magical place, and Sarah has fond memories of Christmas here as a little girl – visits to Father Christmas, husky rides in the snow and hot chocolate by a roaring fire. But as the resorts new owner, Will refuses to play snowball or to deck the halls with anything remotely resembling tinsel!

With customers complaining their Christmas is ruined, Sarah decides it’s up to her to convince Scroogey Will just how magical Christmas can be….

But getting Will into the Christmas spirit is hopeless – he is Bah Humbug personified! But as Sarah gets to know him better, she realises that underneath all the gloom is a man struggling with a pain of his own.

With the big day approaching, Sarah realises that the magic and sparkle can wait. This year, she’s going to spend Christmas day with someone special her very own Mr Scrooge…

Sarah works in the travel agency belonging to her Auntie. When she gets into a bit of an e-mail war with the man who runs the Shooting Star Mountain Resort in Canada, it ends up with her going to stay there for a week in order to see why this holiday destination – one she remembers as a magical place, is now getting the reputation of being the worst place to be.

Sarah wants to see for herself what is going on and more importantly, she wants to help restore the place to its former glory. She also wants to give the manager, Will Armstrong a piece of her mind.

This is one of the things I love most about this time of year. All of the Christmas books. The festive feeling of curling up with a book set around Christmas makes me very happy indeed.

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Book Review: Cold Breath by Quentin Bates

Cold Breath Welcome today to Quentin Bates and the blog tour for Cold Breath released this month from Constable. 

Gunnhildur reluctantly allows herself to be taken off police duties to act as bodyguard to a man with a price on his head . . .

Hidden away in a secure house outside Reykjavík, Gunna and the high-profile stranger, a guest of the interiors minister, are thrown together – too close for comfort. They soon find they are neither as safe nor as carefully hidden as Gunna and her boss had thought. Conflicting glimpses of the man’s past start to emerge as the press begin to sniff him out, as does another group with their own reasons for locating him. Gunna struggles to come to terms with protecting the life of a man who may have the lives of many on his conscience – or indeed may be the philanthropist he claims to be.

Isolated together, the friction grows between Gunna and the foreign visitor, and she realises they are out of their depth as the trails lead from the house outside Reykjavík to Brussels, Russia and the Middle East.

Cold Breath is the latest novel to feature Icelandic detective, Gunnhildur or Gunna as she is called for most of the novel.

She has been assigned a protection detail for a top-secret guest of a government minister. She is not sure about the man she has been asked to protect; whether he is who he says he is or is involved with illegal activities.

This book was my introduction to Gunna and I have to say, it wasn’t long until I couldn’t put this book down. It had mystery running right the way through it and I very much enjoyed trying to solve the puzzle along with Gunna. She is a strong female character.

The plot throughout was very nicely administered. It wasn’t given away too quickly and it was hard to work out how all the pieces fitted together – this was why I kept saying ‘one more page’ when I should have been asleep.

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Book Extract: Starlight on the Palace Pier by Tracy Corbett

Starlight on the palace pierA big hello to Tracy Corbett and the blog tour for her new novel, Starlight on the Palace Pier. 

After an injury derails her dream of becoming a professional dancer, Becca Roberts heads home to Brighton in search of a fresh start.

And, when a part-time dance teacher role becomes available at The Starlight Playhouse, it seems like her stars are finally aligning. The crumbling old playhouse might need a bit of tender loving care (and a lick of paint!), but Becca is more than up to the challenge.

That is until Becca’s first love (and first heartbreak), Tom, waltzes into the Starlight Playhouse, and she realises life by the sea might not be as simple as she thought…

I have reviewed the book below but first, Tracy and Avon have shared an extract with us. Enjoy.

*****Beginning of extract.*****

Becca was suffering with her second hangover in the space of forty-eight hours. She’d met up with a couple of old school friends last night and had ended up at Patterns. Why had she drunk so much? Her head hurt, her eyes hurt, even her hair hurt. But most of all her knee hurt. Too many gin cocktails coupled with dancing in high heels until the early hours had aggravated her injury…again. If she carried on like this she might never make a full recovery. But it was hard to remain focused on her rehabilitation when she knew her dancing career was over.

Still, she didn’t want to walk with a permanent limp, so she needed to dial down the abuse and let her knee heal, which was why she was sitting in the kitchen with an ice pack balancing on her knee. Two paracetamols and two ibuprofens had dulled the pounding in her head, but she still felt battered.

It wasn’t the best preparation for an interview. But then, she wasn’t even sure she wanted the job. Teaching was certainly an avenue lots of dancers chose after retiring, but they were usually the ones who’d had successful careers and had taken teacher training courses. She hadn’t done any of that. She’d never considered herself the teaching type. On the other hand, she needed a job. And Jodi was desperate for an ally, so Becca had contacted Carolyn Elliot-Wentworth and applied for the position.

She drank another glass of water and forced down a slice of toast, but she knew fresh air would be the only real antidote. A walk up to Preston Park would do her good, plus it would help strengthen her thigh muscles, something the consultant said was necessary to protect her knee from future injury.

Yesterday’s clouds had blown away leaving a lovely September day. It was warm enough that she didn’t need a coat, so she headed away from the marina up towards Victoria Fountain, reacquainting herself with her home town. Once a place filled with cheap housing, hippies and squatters struggling to make a living, Brighton had been transformed into a thriving town full of artists and celebrities.

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Book Review: Every Breath by Nicholas Sparks

every breathEvery Breath is the new novel from Nicholas Sparks and is due to be released by Sphere tomorrow. 

Hope Anderson is at a crossroads. After six years with her boyfriend, she is no longer sure what she wants, and when her father becomes ill she heads to her family’s cottage at Sunset Beach in North Carolina to make some difficult decisions.

Tru Walls has been summoned across an ocean from where he was born and raised in Zimbabwe by a letter from a man claiming to be his father. In journeying to Sunset Beach, Tru hopes to unravel the mystery surrounding his mother’s life, but the letter will lead him in an unexpected direction.

When these two strangers’ paths cross, their chance encounter sets in motion a heart-breaking story – one that will transcend decades, continents and the workings of fate.

Tru has travelled to North Carolina from his home in Zimbabwe to meet a man he’s never met. His plan is to have this meeting and head back home as soon as possible. What he doesn’t count on is meeting a woman on the beach. She’s a stranger but he has the feeling that he’s met her before.

Hope has come to her family beach house one more time before it is sold. Whilst walking her dog she looses sight of him. Scottie is brought back by a handsome stranger. Like Tru she has a feeling that she knows him.

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Book Review: Oh! What a Pavlova by Isabella May

oh what a pavlovaKate Clothier is leading a double life: a successful jet-setting businesswoman to the outside world, but behind closed doors, life with Daniel and his volcanic temper is anything but rosy.

Some days – heck, make that EVERY day – cake is her only salvation.

Slowly but surely, the cities she visits – and the men she meets – help her to realise there IS a better future.

And the ley lines of Glastonbury are certainly doing their best to impart their mystical wisdom…

But will she escape before it’s too late?

Oh! What a Pavlova focuses on Kate. Professionally, she is a foreign rights seller for books but in her personal life, things are not looking so good for her. She’s been with Daniel for a few years and the abuse he displays toward her is getting worse every day.

The narrative does jump a round a little bit as it’s pretty much Kate’s story told in the first person.

It took me a couple of chapters to get into this novel as the subject matter isn’t a happy one. Despite this, I believe it was handled well. Some scenes in the book are very shocking.

Like Kate’s life, this book has many aspects. Kate sees her work trips away as an escape from the situation at home. At the beginning, it seems black and white and quite frustrating. The reader doesn’t quite know how someone like Kate could stay with someone like Daniel. She seems such a strong character. It isn’t until you get further into the novel that you begin to really understand the motivations and behaviours of the characters.

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Book Review: ‘Tis The Season To Be Single by Laura Ziepe

Tis the season to be singleAll they want for Christmas…

Rachel is in shock. She was sure that her boyfriend was about to propose – not break up with her! Even worse, it turns out he’s been cheating on her…

Grace can’t bear the thought of spending another Christmas with her lazy, unappreciative husband. Surely it’s time to shake things up a bit?

Amber knows she should be happy that her best friend Jack is getting married, but there’s a little part of her that can’t help think ‘it was always meant to be me’!

With Christmas fast approaching, surely there’s no better time to be single – yet will the three friends manage to keep their promise and ban all men until the New Year?

‘Tis The Season To Be Single focuses on Rachel, Grace and Amber. They all work together in a big department store and have grown to be very close friends. When they all suddenly find themselves single at Christmas, they make a pact to go to the annual work ball together. Of course, nothing ever goes as planned.

This book is told from the point of view of all three women. Grace has realised she’s not happy in her marriage. Rachel has recently discovered that her boyfriend hasn’t been faithful and Amber says she actually doesn’t mind being single and doesn’t want a serious relationship.

Each character has a distinct point of view and voice. They were all very likeable, flawed yet wonderful characters and it didn’t take long before I got invested in their story.

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Book Review: Dreaming of Christmas by T.A.Williams

dreaming of christmasIt’s the dream Christmas: snow, mountains… and, er, an ex-boyfriend. But can Zoe still find love in the Alps?

Dumped on Christmas Eve by her long-term boyfriend, it’s been a rough year for Zoe Lumsley. But then she gets an invitation she can’t refuse: an all expenses paid skiing holiday with old university friends.

The bad news: her ex, Grant, will be there with his new girlfriend. But so will her former flatmate Billy, the organiser, and in the meantime he’s done rather well for himself. As Christmas in the Alps approaches, it’ll be great to see the old gang. Some more than others…

My thanks to Netgalley for the ARC first of all.

This was my first book by T.A.Williams and believe me, I’m so annoyed! So very annoyed at myself, because it’s the first of this author’s that I’ve read! Dammit! On the plus side, as it’s the first, that means I’ve plenty more to look forwards to.

Now, if that isn’t a hint that this’ll be a very good review…I give up.

The main protagonist, a certain Zoe (Clumsly) Lumsley was dumped on Christmas Eve by her longtime boyfriend from university, Grant.

A year later, unhappy in her journalistic job and dreading the forthcoming Christmas anniversary, she finds solace in an unexpected all expenses paid holiday in Austria from another of her flatmates from university, albeit one now more known for being a reclusive IT billionaire. together with the other residents of the flat. This, unfortunately, includes Grant.

A series of adventures ensue with much skiing, quaffing of top quality wine and champagne, with all the protagonists having something to hide including, though she doesn’t realise it until near the end of the book, Zoe herself.

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