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Rachel’s Holiday By Marian Keyes

Rachel’s HolidayIt’s hard to believe that it’s 25th years since the Irish wonder that is Marian Keyes released ‘Rachel’s Holiday’

Meet Rachel Walsh. She’s been living it up in New York City, spending her nights talking her way into glamorous parties before heading home in the early hours to her adoring boyfriend, Luke. But her sensible older sister showing up and sending her off to actual rehab wasn’t quite part of her plan. She’s only agreed to her incarceration because she’s heard that rehab is wall-to-wall jacuzzis, spa treatments and celebrities going cold turkey – plus it’s about time she had a holiday. Saying goodbye to fun and freedom will be hard – and losing the man who might just be the love of her life will be even harder. But will hitting rock bottom help Rachel learn to love herself, at last?

I remember reading this book on a girls holiday whilst lying on a beach in Santa Ponsa and trying to stop my pasty Irish skin from burning. I remember vividly on that holiday grabbing every spare minute that I could find to keep reading as I connected with Rachel on so many levels at that time. In an unhappy relationship, envying the singletons around me and wondering where I was going with my life. It was a complex time.

The story is seen solely through the rose tainted glasses of Rachel, who’s refusing to believe that she has a drug addiction as well as tried to take her own life. After being taken away from the bright lights of New York to the lino lined floor of the Cloisters, she’s hoping to run into celebrities to make her stay more adventurous but instead she’s having to face up to her ghosts and take a long hard look at herself.

Rachel is the woman that all women can identity with, insecure, unhappy, depressed, low self esteem. Her troubles are as long as a Tesco club card receipt, yet we all get her and think of her an inspiration, a shining light of courage and bravery.

This book is a witty and warm hearted tale about substance abuse, addiction and depression and Marian has handled these tough issues with such wit and charm that has made her one of the world’s most favourite authors. Her books have gone on to have inspired countless authors including an aspiring author, like myself. And it’s wonderful to hear that we will be meeting Rachel in 2022 with Marian’s new book called ‘Again Rachel’.

The story is written in the past and present tense, leading up to the fateful night of overdose and right from the start, this book is a hard hitting read, As Rachel adapts to her new life with like-minded people, who she refuses to believe that she has anything in common with. They have to face daily meetings with counsellors, her inmates as well as their significant others as they try to realise the damage that they are doing to themselves and others.

To the outside world, Rachel is the life and soul of the party and it really does make for sobering reading as it finally dawns on Rachel, the consequences of her behaviour and the effect it has on others and this is genuinely heartbreaking reading.

In true Marian style, no book is complete without the drama of the Walsh family, their competitive and bitchy nature but fiercely loyal behaviour made for warm reading. Whilst the inmates at the Cloisters, were a huge variety of personalities that riled and connected with each other, are always there with a shoulder or a bar of chocolate for support.

It’s hard to put together a review of this book, as no amount of wordage can really sing the praise of how brilliant ‘Rachel’s Holidays’ is. It’s coming of age, it’s witty, it’s bleak, it’s inspirational and at the heart of it all, it’s a love story – about a woman falling back in love with herself.

A book that I could easily read over and over again and still snort and cry at, happy anniversary to ‘Rachel’s Holidays’, a triumph of a story that’s written with such humour and charm but tackles substance and addiction abuse with skill.

You can buy ‘Rachel’s Holiday’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

Secrets In The Dark By Ceril Campbell

Secrets In The Dark‘Secrets In The Dark’ is Ceril Campbell’s debut novel.

Innocent Phoebe has only known a life of privilege. Street-smart Paula has had to make her own way in the world. When the two girls meet as teenagers, they form a deep sisterly bond, recognising in one another a yearning for love and for lives that are different from the ones they were born into. But when they each suffer a personal trauma, they are torn apart and set out on very different paths. So begins a rollercoaster journey throughout the 1970s of extreme highs and lows for Phoebe and Paula, as they travel from the epicentre of cool on the Kings Road, Chelsea, to the glamour of Paris, LA and the South of France.

If you’re a fan ofJackie Collins and need a book filled with deceit, scandal and sex, then look no further as ‘Secrets In The Dark’ ticks all those boxes.

The story is seen through the narrative of best friends Phoebe and Paula, who met in secondary school in 1970 and became unlikely friends. Upper class Phoebe is uncomfortable and awkward whilst Paula is a stunning girl who is Phoebe’s complete opposite. Together they make an unlikely pair but they form a close bond until one day Paula disappears leaving Phoebe to wonder what became of her best friend. Leaving them both to find their places in the world, unaware that they in each other’s vicinity without the other knowing.

The story is seen through the narrative of both women and flows through the years. Both becoming successful in their careers, falling in love, marriage as well as teenage pregnancy, sexual assault and drug addiction.

This book makes for racy yet gritty reading that I found myself unable to put down as Phoebe becomes a successful clothes stylist working with great pop stars of the 70’s and gives an insight into the pop circuit. An industry rife with drugs, alcohol and sexual exploits.We also see Phoebe struggle with substance addiction as well as an eating disorder as it helps deal with a sexual assault and gives her back control. These scenes are upsetting reading as Phoebe battles with emotions and blames herself for the attack. Whilst Paula has made a career for herself as a working girl and is fortunate to be paired with only successful men.

The era for the setting of the book made for gripping reading, when drugs are heavily on the scene and being gay is still taboo and has to be celebrated in secret. Cecril’s descriptions are wonderfully vivid and she paints a fabulous picture of the heady days of the music and film industry.

I loved ‘Secrets In The Dark’, it’s sexy, scandalous, thrilling but at the heart of it all, it’s a wonderful story of friendship and though lives may have moved on, best friends are forever.

You buy ‘Secrets In The Dark’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

The Winter Cottage By Rachael Lucas

The Winter Cottage‘The Winter Cottage’ is the first book in the ‘Applemore Bay’ series by Rachael Lucas.

When Rilla Clark’s long lost father dies, she leaves New England and heads to his cottage in the Scottish Highlands to sort out his affairs. Rilla’s determined that her visit will be a fleeting one. The little village of Applemore holds a lot of memories for her, but looking back might just open up her heart, which she’s kept well-guarded until now. Lachlan Fraser is less than delighted with his inheritance. He left the grand, crumbling Applemore House as soon as he could, and he can’t see why his three sisters love it so much. Gathered together at their family estate, the battle of wills over what to do with the house is just beginning when into their life walks Rilla, who they haven’t seen for over fifteen years. Old friendships and long-hidden emotions are rekindled as the romance of a Highland winter works its magic – will Rilla and Lachlan discover that home isn’t a place, but a feeling?

At only 256 pages, the first book in a new series by Rachael Lucas can easily be consumed in one sitting with plenty of tea for company.

Seen through the narrative of Rilla and Lachlan who have both returned to the village of Applemore to sort out their houses after their fathers have passed away.

Lachlan is heir to a huge, old castle that’s in dire need of work and a huge tax bill hangs over the family. Whilst Rilla’s family home is located on the Lachlan’s family home and is a much more humble affair.

Rilla was friends was Lachlan and his 3 sisters as a child but was taken away when an incident occurred. She thinks that coming to the town many years after leaving she won’t be remembered but she’s wrong and finds herself with her childhood friends as well as her crush on Lachlan returning, completely unaware the Lachlan’s feeling are the same.

Whilst they’re clearing out the houses and trying to think of ways to find funds to fix the castle, Lachlan and Rilla have plenty of projects to work on together and their bond begins to strengthen. And it’s so lovely to read the interactions between the two of them as they are blissfully unaware of each other’s feelings and both deal with grief in different ways.

This was the first book that I read by Rachael Lucas and it was an absolute joy from start to finish. Filled with warm and charming characters, a close knit and picturesque village with an adorably hyper dog, ‘The Winter Cottage’ has all the makings of the perfect romance novel, love, hope and new beginnings.

You can pre-order ‘The Winter Cottage’ from Amazon and will be available to buy from good bookshops from 25th October 2021.

Love Life By Nancy Peach

Love Life‘Love Life’ is the latest book by Nancy Peach.

Palliative care doctor, Tess Carter, is no starry-eyed heroine. After all, if your dad left without a backward glance and you found your last boyfriend in bed with another guy, you wouldn’t believe in romance either. And the voices in Tess’s head – you know, the ones that tell you you’re not good enough, not pretty enough, not clever enough – well, these voices are very loud. Very loud indeed. Especially when the disagreeable son of one of her patients starts challenging her every decision. Edward Russell might have a big job and a posh voice, but Tess is determined not to let him get to her, especially if she can get her inner monologue to stop with the endless self-sabotage. And Edward, it turns out, may be less of a prat than he first appears…

If you’re looking for a story that will tug at your heartstrings but will have you smiling then ‘Love Life’ is just the book for you.

The story is mostly seen through the narrative of hospice doctor Tess, who’s getting over a messy break up. When a new patient comes into the hospice called Mary, her son is a fond memory from Tess’s past. Unfortunately Edward does not remember Tess and is more concerned about his mother’s health than Tess. As Edward comes to terms with his mother’s health, they form an unlikely bond together.

There is also an inner dialogue that Tess has with Jane Austen as well as television who narrates the downfalls in Tess’s life. Tess’s life is complicated as she deals with self worth, heartbreak and an ongoing eating disorder battle.

The story is set in a hospice and this makes for bittersweet and warm reading as people come to terms with their mortality with humour whilst their relatives struggle with it.

This story is a heartfelt one that made for tender and fun reading that really struck a chord from the first page to the last. Filled with vibrant characters, all dealing with their internal struggles, ‘Love Life’ is a beautiful tearjerker about life, love and new beginnings.

You can buy ‘Love Life’ from Amazon.

The Bookshop Of Second Chances By Jackie Fraser

The Bookshop Of Second Chancesr‘The Bookshop Of Second Chances’ is the latest book by Jackie Fraser.

Thea’s having a bad month. Not only has she been made redundant, she’s also discovered her husband of nearly twenty years is sleeping with one of her friends. And he’s not sorry – he’s leaving. Bewildered and lost, Thea doesn’t know what to do. But, when she learns the great-uncle she barely knew has died and left her his huge collection of second-hand books and a house in the Scottish Lowlands, she seems to have been offered a second chance. Running away to a little town where no one knows her seems like exactly what Thea needs. But when she meets the aristocratic Maltravers brothers – grumpy bookshop owner Edward and his estranged brother Charles, Lord Hollinshaw – her new life quickly becomes just as complicated as the life she was running from…

I curled up on the Bank Holiday Monday with this book and it was just bliss from start to finish.

Set in a small Scottish village, it’s seen from the narrative of Thea who’s relocated due to her marriage breakdown and unexpected inheritance. Now living in an old house surrounded by antique books that are worth a lot of money. She’s becomes unlikely friends with Edward, who owns a bookshop and has employed her to bring his antique bookshop into the 21st century.

The 2 of them have a love/hate relationship and it’s so much fun to read their interactions between them. Edward is a charming character, who’s quite stand offish, but there’s something quite endearing about him as Thea brings him out of his shell. I loved Thea, she’s a sweetheart of a character. After her marriage broke down, she’s nursing a broken heart and through her love of books, she’s piecing it back together with new friendships and beginnings.

The story is wittily written filled with tender moments and laugh out loud scenes and Jackie surprises the reader with some colourful language that genuinely made me snort with laughter.

A romantic comedy that made for heartwarming reading and brightened up a dull bank holiday, ‘The Bookshop Of Second Chances’ is packed with joy, new starts and fun!

You can buy ‘The Bookshop Of Second Chances’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.