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The Distant Shores By Santa Montefiore

The Distant Shores‘The Distant Shores’ is the latest book by Santa Montefiore.

Margot Hart travels to Ireland to write a biography of the famous Deverill family. She knows she must speak to the current Lord Deverill – JP – if she is to uncover the secrets of the past. A notorious recluse, JP won’t be an easy man to crack. But Margot is determined – and she is not a woman who is easily put off. What she never expected was to form a close bond with JP and be drawn into his family disputes. Shouldering the blame for running up debts that forced him to sell the family castle, JP is isolated and vulnerable. With help from his handsome son Colm, it seems as though Margot might be the only one who can restore JP’s fortunes.

Although Santa has written quite a few books, this is actually the first book that I’ve read by the author and I was completely swept away by this historical, Irish drama.

The story is primarily seen through the narrative of Margot Hart who travels to rural Ireland to write a historical book based on the charismatic and fascinating Deverill’s, a family riddled by secrets and bad luck. The Deverill’s family castle is now a hotel and many people believe it to be haunted with the strange goings ons. It’s whilst researching the family history that secrets are unveiled and the estranged family are torn even further apart under the watchful eye of the ghost Kitty, a troubled character in the Deverill’s family history.

This book is actually part of a series but can easily be read as a standalone as Santa has given enough detail and background so that the reader doesn’t feel lost in the story. Her characters are fascinating mix of personalities from the determined Margot, who’s the talk of the Ballinkelly with her warmth and inquisitive nature and Lord JP Deverill who’s using Margot’s book as a distraction from his unhappy life and helping him put old ghosts to rest.

Throughout the story, there’s the underlying tension that Margot is going to reveal more secrets from the already troubled family and it’s evident that the family members are on tenterhooks.

Santa is beautifully descriptive in her writing, from the exquisite descriptions of the haunting castle to the reflective moments seen from the narrative of Kitty, who makes her presence known in some spine tingling ways disturbing the residents.

Although the book is quite long at 416 pages, I immediately sank into it and was able to read it in a few sittings. With a gloriously addictive plot line, a picturesque landscape and a determined protagonist, ‘The Distant Shores’ is the perfect summer read about family history, mending old wounds and reconnecting with some Irish charm weaves throughout.

You can buy ‘The Distant Shores’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

Home By Penny Parkes

Home‘Home’ is the latest book by Penny Parkes.

Anna Wilson travels the world as a professional housesitter – stepping into other people’s lives – caring for their homes, pets and sometimes even neighbours. Living vicariously. But all Anna has ever really wanted is a home of her own – a proper one, filled with family and love and happy memories. If only she knew where to start. Growing up in foster care, she always envied her friends their secure and carefree lives, their certainty and confidence. And, while those same friends may have become her family of choice, Anna is still stuck in that nomadic cycle, looking for answers, trying to find the courage to put down roots and find a place to call home.

I haven’t read many books by Penny, so when I was offered the chance to read her latest book, I was delighted.

The story is seen through the eyes of house sitter and budding writer Anna Wilson. With no permanent roots or place to call home, she looks after other people’s houses when they travel. Having spent her life in and out of foster homes, she has never known a home but decides now is the time to finally face up to her family’s past and finally see if she can finally put pen to paper and write the story that she’s always dreamt of telling.

I loved this story, it was beautifully written, impactful and tender in parts that really made for lovely reading. I loved Anna, she’s kind, caring and has never known a proper home, so doesn’t know what it would feel like to have one. After a traumatic childhood, she’s always on the run, never settling down and she treats her adult life like her childhood living in one bag and always ready for the next upheaval.

Although her job is admirable and exciting visiting luxurious houses and friendly pets that provided company, there was an underlying sadness to the story with Anna not having a permanent address.

The story is written in past and present tense, Anna as an adult and as a child. The reflections back to her younger self made for sad reading, as she had finally found herself a home, only for it to taken away and how she drifts from pillar to post without proper connection to her blood family.

Penny writes sensitively about the concept home, how it’s not only about the four walls that you live in, but it’s also the feeling you get when you close the door. The sense of calm and protection and your own wee world away from the chaos of the world.

With an absolutely stunning cover and storyline that really struck a chord, ‘Home’ is a clever and warm story about visiting old ghosts and making new friends that is both uplifting and heartbreaking in equal measures.

You can buy ‘Home’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

A Taste Of Home By Heidi Swain

A Taste Of Home‘A Taste Of Home’ is the latest book by Heidi Swain.

Fliss Brown has grown up living with her mother on the Rossi family’s Italian fruit farm. But when her mother dies, Fliss finds out she has a family of her own, and heads back to England with Nonna Rossi’s recipe for cherry and almond tart and a piece of advice: connect with your family before it is too late. Fliss discovers that her estranged grandfather owns a fruit farm himself, on the outskirts of Wynbridge, and she arrives to find a farm that has fallen into disrepair. Using her knowledge gleaned from working on the Rossi farm and her desire to find out more about her past, Fliss rolls her sleeves up and gets stuck in. But what will she discover, and can she resurrect the farm’s glory days and find a taste of home?

Heidi is back with another heartwarming story about family, new beginnings and love. The story is seen through the narrative of Fliss just after her mother’s death. Having to deal with the loss breaks Fliss’s heart but then she is given a letter from her mother about the unknown that she has in a small village called Wynbridge having spent her life in Italy with her family. So she plucks up the courage to find her grandfather and finds that they have even more in common than blood, both loving farming and decides to invest her learning from the Rossi family into making the farm a success.

I adore Heidi’s writing, it’s so warm, homely and glorious to curl up with. I loved the characters from the quiet determination of Fliss to her grandfather who’s quite similar in personality and it’s lovely to see them embark on their relationship and the delight of sharing new interests along the way. Other supporting characters include the handsome and charismatic Elliott, who read like the perfect man with his kind nature, whilst Anthony instantly read like a suspicious character. As the story is set in Wynbridge, it was lovely to return to the village and see some of the characters and see where they are now in their life journey’s such Jemma and Lizzie and the Cherry Tree Cafe.

The story is beautifully written and it’s obviously written with love, with the stunning descriptions of the backdrop of Italy to the stunning landscapes of the fruit farm. I found the story not only an aspiring tale but also so informative with regards to operating a farm, as well as the delicious recipes along the way. No Heidi book is complete without the inclusion of her mouth-watering recipes.

With a stunning setting and heartwarming characters, ‘A Taste Of Home’ is the perfect book to whisk you with this escapism read.

You can buy ‘A Taste Of Home’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

The World At My Feet By Catherine Isaac

The World At My Feet‘The World At My Feet’ is the latest book by Catherine Isaac.

1990. Harriet is a journalist. Her job takes her to dangerous places, where she asks questions and tries to make a difference. But when she is sent to Romania, to the state orphanages the world is only just learning about, she is forced to rethink her most important rule. 2018. Ellie is a gardener. Her garden is her sanctuary, her pride and joy. But, though she spends long days outdoors, she hasn’t set foot beyond her gate for far too long. Now someone enters her life who could finally be the reason she needs to overcome her fears.

‘The World At My Feet’ is the third book by Catherine and just like her debut, it’s just as tearjerking and captivating.

The story is seen through the narrative of mother and daughter Harriet and Ellie. To the outside world, Ellie is a strong and powerful woman with a strong following on her gardening Instagram page but Ellie doesn’t move beyond her garden due to agoraphobia. Much as she’d love to step outside her garden, her fear and anxiety have prevented her leaving the house for a number of years, leaving her reliant on deliveries and support from her parents and younger sister called Lucy.

Although Ellie’s narrative is written in the present tense, her mother’s Harriet is written in the past tense at the height of her career when she was a war correspondent travelling to some of the most dangerous places in the world.  One place that particularly triggered an emotion and connection with Harriet, was the Romanian orphanages, were children with haunting eyes who were not only malnourished of food but also love and affection.

The story seen through Ellie’s makes for frustrating and sad reading, she’s a wonderful young woman who quite literally has the world at her end but is consumed by her fear that her life is in limbo. Aware that she needs to make changes before it’s too late, she become friends with Jamie, the garden centre delivery man who gently coaxes her out into real world with his kind and fun nature. Their friendship makes for lovely reading as they get to know each other and their interactions.

Harriet’s narrative makes for quite hard hitting reading as she travels to war worn torn and poverty stricken countries. Catherine vividly describes the desperation and desolation of the orphanages as the children long for love and are horribly deprived of it and this make upsetting reading at times.

Like her previous novels, Catherine’s novels really strike a chord with its reader connecting with them on an emotional level that really pulls its audience in. The story focuses on genuinely upsetting topics such as agoraphobia and the orphanages in Romania, but she writes with such sensitivity and warmth which really captures the readers heart. Even in the darkest moments of the story, there are elements of light with the beautiful descriptions of the gardens and the inclusion of a friendly canine called Gertie.

Beautifully written with thoroughly researched subjects, Catherine has created another soulful story that captivates the reader. ‘The World At My Feet’ is a stunningly written story of hope, courage and new beginnings.

You can buy ‘The World At My Feet’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

A Family Reunion By Patricia Scanlan

A Family Reunion‘A Family Reunion’ is the latest book by Patricia Scanlan.

When four feisty women from the same family, get together at a family reunion, anything can happen…

‘A Family Reunion’ is a hard hitting and emotional story about a family’s hardship with bitter feelings and revelations.

The story begins on the night of Brigid’s 80th birthday, when a surprise party is organised by her friends and family. Having spent over 60 years giving her life to the Catholic Church and helping those less well off, she’s looking forward to her retirement. But on that night, her younger sister Imelda, who has always jealous of Brigid leaving Ireland and having a more exciting life and leaving her to deal with the family farm and settle for a much slower pace of life than she ever desired. After Imelda reveals the bottled up emotions from the last 60 years, the story then flows for many decades and seen from 3 generations of women. Brigid and Imelda, Imelda’s daughter Keelin and Keelin’s daughter Marie Claire, who has just returned to Ireland from Canada after that her boyfriend was cheating on her.

The story is seen from the different narratives as they all battle with the aftermath of Brigid’s party and all the women are devastated at Imelda’s news.

Imelda is a hard character, she’s selfish absorbed and is not afraid to speak her mind. She longed to leave rural Ireland for the city lights of Dublin, but couldn’t with Brigid becoming a nun and has never forgiving her sister for taking away her opportunity and as the years go by with everyone singing Brigid’s praises, Imelda’s resentment grows.

Brigid is an interesting character, she became a nun to discover more opportunities in life and escape Ireland and found herself loving and embracing helping the sick in Africa and her narratives makes for humbling reading at times.

The story spans over 70 years and it really does make for upsetting and sad reading in part. The Catholic Church has such a strong hold over Ireland and over the years there have been terrible stories revealed with the Catholic Church in the forecourt of them. The Mother and Baby Homes where underage or unwed women had babies only for them to cruelly taken away from them to be sold or to have buried in unmarked graves. Women were unable to get contraceptives and had to travel to Northern Ireland and only recently in 2018, in the Irish Referendum, was it allowed that women could have abortions in Ireland and not have to travel to England for an already traumatic experience.

Patricia has truly written a story that evokes many reactions from the hardships that women faced living in Ireland, the treatment and judgement from the Church that impacted on so many lives as well as the lack of equality. To think, that women were unable to get library cards without consent from their husbands made for truly shocking reading. It’s remarkable to read how the country has progressed throughout the years but without the power and resilience of the women of Ireland, life could be a lot darker.

Sweetly written and crafted with the warmth of Irish culture and dialogue, A story of revelations, hope and the power of family blood, ‘A Family Reunion’ is a poignant and insightful about how the consequences of one night can changes lives forever.

You can buy ‘A Family Reunion’ from Amazon and is also available to buy from good bookshops.