#Bookreview Escape to the French Farmhouse by Jo Thomas #romance #tuesdaybookblog

This is another great read from Jo Thomas. She is one of my favourite romance writers and her books never fails to make me feel emotional!

Blurb

Can Del find her recipe for happiness?

Del and her husband Ollie moved to a beautiful village in Provence for a fresh start after years of infertility struggles. But six weeks after they arrive, they’re packing the removal van once more. As Del watches the van leave for England, she suddenly realises exactly what will make her happier…a new life in France – without Ollie.

Now alone, all Del has is a crumbling farmhouse, a mortgage to pay and a few lavender plants. What on earth is she going to do? After discovering an old recipe book at the market run by the rather attractive Fabian, Del starts to bake. But can her new-found passion really help her let go of the past and lead to true happiness?

A heart-warming tale about reclaiming your life, set amongst the lavender fields of Provence. Perfect escapism from the author of Late Summer in the Vineyard and The Honey Farm on the Hill.

My review

The story starts as Del prepares to leave France with her husband but she realises their relationship is broken and she decides to stay on alone. It’s a very brave thing to do, especially where all her stuff is already on its way back to England!

Del is a strong character even if she doesn’t always see that about herself. I love being in her world, watching as she learns to trust herself and be self reliant.

The people in the nearby town make her feel welcome and she settles into her new life, finding friendship and possibly more in the process. She helps others, in particular a young mum along the way. These growing friendships really make the story something special.

The details of the farmhouse and the lavender are so immersive. I also love the details of the cooking. Del uses her love of baking to start providing for herself, incorporating the lavender from her farm into everything she cooks. Be warned, this book can make you hungry. Helpfully there are a few recipes at the back of the book, which is a nice little touch.

The chapters are very short and always draw you into the next. Many times I said to myself I’ll just read one more chapter only to find another half and hour had passed without me even realising.

If you like to be transported to beautiful places and enjoy heart-warming and feel good stories, then give Escape to the French Farmhouse a try.

My rating – 5 lavender scented stars!

Also see my reviews of Late Summer in the Vineyards and The Olive Grove.

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Suzanne Rogerson – Author of epic and heroic fantasy

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September Reading Update #amreading #fantasy #romance #writingguides

I’ve just reached my reading target for 2020, four months early! Ok, so I only set it at 15, but I have been really enjoying reading again and have to say the standard of the books has been so high. I’ve read a mix of fantasy, romance, spy-thrilllers and urban fantasy, plus a non-fiction book and a bio by Monty Don – Nigel.

What I’ve recently read

Book 1 and 2 S.A. Chakraborty’s Daevabad trilogy. I plan to do a trilogy review as soon as I’ve finished book 3, which I was kindly given a copy of via Netgalley.

Currently reading

During lockdown I’ve been taken with the idea of writing some Romance novellas so I’ve decided to always have a romance book on the go. I’m currently reading…

Chocolate Wishes by Trisha Ashley.

and I’m almost finished reading Escape to the French Farmhouse by Jo Thomas. It is such a lovely read and I’ll be sad to finish it.

As mentioned above, I’m reading book 3 in Daevabad trilogy, Empire of Gold. I hope to finish this asap and get the reviews up for all 3 books. It’s a such a brilliant series that I can’t wait to tell you about it.

What I plan to read over the next few months

My book group have chosen Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen. I’ve been wanting to read this for the last few years so I’m looking forward to digging in before the end of September.

I would like to catch up with the next Carrie Harris book by GJ Stevens. I read the prequel a few months ago and couldn’t put it down. See my review here.

I also have plans to read some non-fiction books as research for my writing. Now the kids have returned to school I’m wondering if I’ll have more time on my hands to tackle these books;

I’d also like to revisit some non-fiction books I read last year and put into action their suggestions and hopefully review them this time!

By the end of the year I hope to support some of my fellow fantasy indie authors. I’ll share those books in another blog post in support of #Selfpubfantasymonth.

I think that is plenty of reading to be getting on with. Have you read any of these books? Are they on your TBR?

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Suzanne Rogerson – Author of epic and heroic fantasy

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Review: Art and Soul by Claire Huston @ClaraVal #romance #bookreview

Today I’d like to share my review of Art and Soul by Claire Huston. To briefly explain my feelings for this book – I had to ban myself from reading it at night because I just couldn’t stop reading to go to sleep!

Blurb

There’s no problem Becky Watson can’t fix. Except her own love life…

Struggling single mother Becky Watson longs to revive her career as a life-fixer, working miracles to solve her clients’ problems, no matter how big or small. Since the birth of her two-year-old son she has been stuck preventing wedding fiascos for the richest and rudest residents of the Comptons, a charming, leafy area of southern England known for its artistic heritage.

So when semi-reclusive local artist Charlie Handren reluctantly hires Becky to fix his six-year creative slump, she’s delighted to set him up with a come-back exhibition and Rachel Stone, the woman of his dreams.

Though they get off to a rocky start, Becky and Charlie soon become close. But as the beautiful Rachel becomes Charlie’s muse, Becky is forced to wonder: will giving Charlie everything he wants mean giving up her own happily ever after?

A heart-warming romance about second chances perfect for fans of Jill Mansell, Phillipa Ashley and Cathy Kelly.

My Review

(I’m experimenting and going back to my old review style, so let me know what you think.)

Characters

I felt an immediate connection with the main characters Becky and Charlie. The story is told skilfully from both their viewpoints and has lots of side characters that bring colour and warmth to the story.

Plot

Becky is a life-fixer and is brought in to help reclusive artist Charlie rediscover his muse for painting and set his life back on track whilst trying to deal with her own single parent struggles. She can work miracles with other people, and is almost like a guardian angel working in the background, but has her own difficulties and hang ups from past events that get in the way of her finding her own happiness.

What I like

It was great to read a story about a life fixer. It’s something different and I think we can agree that we all need a bit of Becky’s magical touch in our lives!

I also loved how Becky is a single parent struggling to work and raise her young son. It’s not the usual set up for a romance story and it was refreshing.

What I didn’t like

It’s one of those books where there really isn’t anything that I had an issue with. The ending could have been a tiny bit more dramatic maybe but it was still satisfying, enjoyable and choked me up so you really can’t ask for much more from a story.

Conclusion

I cannot go into details and risk spoilers but I will say I was left with happy feeling at the end of this novel. There were ups and downs throughout that kept you guessing but in the end it was a great conclusion to the story. It left me wanting to keep reading and being in their lives!

This is Claire Huston’s debut novel, though it reads like a book from a well-established author who has honed her craft. She’s an author I look forward to reading more from.

Recommend

I recommend this to anyone who enjoys a feel good romance. Star rating 4.5

Check it out on Goodreads and Amazon

My favourite shows, films, music and books from 2018.

I have been very quiet on my blog and social media lately and I don’t really have any excuses other than I just haven’t been feeling the drive to write anything. However, looking back over my reading year has inspired me to share with you a few of my favourite things from 2018.

TV Shows

Starting with TV shows. We recently binge watched both seasons of Sneaky Pete and loved them. Roll on season 3.

sneaky pete

Then along came Lucifer…

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Wow, I can honestly say I have never been so affected by a TV show before. We’ve just watched the last couple of episodes of season 3 and I really don’t know what I’ll do while I’m waiting for season 4. To think they almost didn’t make it at all! How could they even consider leaving the fans with such a cliff hanger… forever?

Lucifer has everything you could want in a show – emotion, comedy, romance, friendship, fun, action, murder, mystery, and Tom Ellis is a wickedly sexy and camp devil that I adore. I’ve never been one for angels and demons etc, but I think I’m going to try some books along this theme. Any recommendations?

A final word about Lucifer; if it can grip my 14-year-old son’s attention, who would normally rather game on his Xbox ahead of eating and sleeping, then anyone should be able to enjoy the show.

 Favourite film this year…

Venom – This is the easiest one to call as I loved this film so much that I wanted to stay in the cinema and watch the next showing. I can’t wait to watch it with the family when it comes out on DVD, only a month to go!

Tom Hardy was excellent and really, what more is there to say. Action, laughs, adventure, love…

venom

Favourite band

I’ve just discovered Halestorm, and wow does Lizzy have the most incredible voice or what? One of her songs has given me the inspiration I’ve needed to get on with book 3 in my Silent Sea Chronicles series. ‘I am the Fire’ is an amazing song and it reflects the book cover for The Sentinel’s Alliance, which I hope to reveal soon.

 

Books of 2018

I just about completed my reading challenge on Goodreads, managing 35 books which was the target I set myself. Only 2 of those are audiobooks, which is a surprise as in 2017 I think I listened to quite a few.

You can see my book challenge on Goodreads here .

Here are my favourite reads from 2018.

Fantasy / YA

I discovered a new favourite author this year – Maria V Snyder. The two books of hers that I read, Poison Study and Magic Study were my favourite fantasy reads this year. I was totally gripped by the characters and the story, and I’m so pleased to see that she has quite a few more books written in this world.

Here are my reviews of Poison Study.

Writers Guides

I’ve read a couple this year but the most inspiring one has been Take off your Pants by Libbie Hawker. It’s all about outlining novels, something I have struggled with in the past. I have lots of ideas but no idea where they are going. This guide lays out a way to outline your book and keep the pace exciting. I hope to do a proper review of the book once I’ve used the method fully. In the meantime, I really recommend giving the book a go. Goodreads link.

take off your pants

Thriller

I’m surprised to see that I haven’t read many thrillers this year. My favourite is by my writing hero fantasy author, David Gemmell. Rhyming Rings isn’t on the same level as his fantasy books were, but it’s still a great page-turning read and you care for these characters, which is a skill of David Gemmell’s I’ve always admired.

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Romance

I like to read a couple of romance books a year and this year I’ve really been spoilt with the quality of those I’ve chosen. They’ve all been excellent but if I have to pick a favourite I think I will go with The Cornish House by Liz Fenwick. Here is my review. I cannot sum up the story any better than Elizabeth Buchan does on the cover… Just read it!

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I’ve really enjoyed sharing my favourite reads from the last year, though these are not the books I planned to read during 2018. In fact I’d say my plan last year was an epic fail. I had good intentions of finishing a few trilogies and didn’t manage to complete any of them. It’s not that I don’t want to read them, I think it’s because I’m a mood reader and quite often pick my next read on the spur of the moment. Maybe in 2019 I’ll just see what takes my fancy and not put pressure on myself.

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What do you think of my choices? Have you read any of these books or watched Lucifer and Venom?

Join me again when I review my writing year and achievements of 2018.

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#Tuesdaybookblog #Bookreview The Olive Branch by Jo Thomas #romance

This is a quick review because I just have to share this book with you all. First as always here’s the blurb from goodreads…

Escape to Italy with THE OLIVE BRANCH. The irresistibly romantic new novel from Jo Thomas, award-winning author of ebook runaway bestseller THE OYSTER CATCHER.

It’s amazing what you can buy online these days:
Memorabilia
Fashion accessories
A crumbling Italian farmhouse…

After a Prosecco-fuelled girls’ night in gets out of hand, Ruthie Collins awakes to discover that she has bid for her dream Italian home online – and won. Recently out of a relationship, a new start is just what Ruthie needs. Anything is better than sleeping on her mum’s settee.

But arriving in Southern Italy, Ruthie doesn’t know the first thing about running an olive farm. And with new neighbours, the tempestuous Marco Bellanouvo and his fiery family to contend with, all Ruthie wants is to go back home.

Life can change with the click of a mouse. But all good things – friendship, romance, and even the olive harvest – take time to grow. Can Ruthie finally put the past to rest and find her own piece of the Dolce Vita along the way? Goodreads

the olive branch

My review

The Olive Branch drew me in from the first page and I couldn’t stop reading or thinking about it. It had me laughing and crying, and wishing for my own adventure in Italy.

This is the second book I’ve read my Jo Thomas and I’m now planning to stock up on the rest of her novels. She picks wonderful locations and transports you to them, immersing you in the place and the culture of its people. Not only that, but you learn something too. In The Olive Tree I learnt about the olive groves and the olive harvest. It really was fascinating to live in Ruthie’s shoes for a few days. I also got to experience a dream of moving and renovating a rundown home, but without any of the hard work!

I really do recommend Jo Thomas’ books and can’t wait to dive into the next adventure. Have to read any of her books? Can you recommend my next read?

Here’s my review of Late Summer in the Vineyard

Oh and in case you were wondering, this is a heart-warming 5 star read!

My summer reading plan #amreading #fantasy #thriller #romance

My reading has really been slow these last few months, what with publishing my own book and all that goes with it. I’m hoping to step up the reading through the rest of the summer and what better way to achieve this than to tell the world my plan!

I’m using the format of WWW Wednesday, as I didn’t get this post finished in time to share it yesterday.

What I’m currently reading.

Jo Thomas The Olive Branch.

the olive branch

I only picked this book up quickly last night to get a taste of the story. 50 pages later, I know I’m going to enjoy it. I’ve read one of Jo Thomas’s books before and loved it. Here’s the review of Late Summer in the Vineyard.

What I’m currently listening to

My Husband’s Wife

my husbands wife

It’s ok. Seems a bit slow, but there are intriguing titbits to keep me interested so far.

What I recently finished reading

Senlin Ascends Josiah Bancroft

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I’m not sure what to say about this book. I didn’t love it and felt it was slow in places. I found the tower concept very hard to picture and it was hard to really connect with Senlin. However, towards the end I did find myself not wanting to stop reading, so I’ll be interested to see what happens in book 2. I’ve heard the pace picks up, fingers crossed.

What I plan to read next

Anthony Ryan’s Collected Non-fiction

I think this is a newsletter subscriber offer and I can’t wait to read his non-fiction articles.

David Gemmell – Rhyming Rings

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I have been saving this book since my birthday last year as it’s one of the only books I haven’t read by my all time favourite author.

Poison Study

poison study

This is my book group choice for August and a book I have been interested in reading for a while.

 

Knowing from experience how hard it is to get reviews, I want to read a couple of Indie books and support my fellow authors. So I intend to read;

The Exercise of Vital Powers – Ian Gregoire

cover-artwork

Not Like Anyone Else – Jennifer Leigh

not like everyone else

I still have a couple of trilogies I want to finish by the end of this year

Queen of Fire – Anthony Ryan

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Magic Borne – Crown of Stones – C. L Schneider

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There are 350+ on my goodreads TBR shelf so I have plenty of other great books to choose from. Plus my kids are always recommending books and I know I should get stuck into Robin Hobb’s latest trilogy. If I do, I won’t be doing anything else for a while!

I hope to do another post in Autumn, I wonder how many books I’ll have read by then and how many of the above will be finished!

Do you have any reading plans for the summer?

#tuesdaybookblog #bookreview Ninja School Mum by @Lizzie_Chantree

I am reviewing Ninja School Mum by Lizzie Chantree.

The Blurb

Obsessive-compulsive school mum, Skye, is a lonely elite spy, who is running from her past whilst trying to protect the future of her child. She tries hard to fit in with the other parents at her son’s new school, but the only person who accepts her unconventional way of life is new mother, Thea.

Thea is feeling harassed by her sister and bored with her life, but she suspects that there is something strange about the new school mum, Skye. Thea has secrets of her own and, although the two become unlikely friends, she hesitates to tell Skye about the father of her own child.

Zack’s new business is growing faster than he could have dreamed but, suddenly, he finds himself the owner of a crumbling estate on the edge of a pretty village, and a single parent to a very demanding child. Could he make a go of things and give his daughter the life she deserved?

When three lives collide, it appears that only one of them is who they seem to be, and you never know who the person next to you in the school playground really is.

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My Mini Review

The cover is very cool. I love the colour contrast and the silhouette. It drew me in to find out more and the premise of the story really appealed. Who can resist a spy story!

There is a lot to like about this book. The characters are colourful and have plenty of secrets between them. Skye, Thea and Zack are well drawn and likeable, though you know they have secrets and you have to read on to find out what is really going on.

The spy part of the plot is important, but perhaps not featured enough. I would have loved to relive some of the backstory through flashbacks.

One of my favourite parts were the unusual business ideas; Skye starts up a self-defence class for children to avoid the school bully, while Zack runs Cloud Climb on his estate, which also sounds like a great idea if you like heights!

For me there were a few issues with this book. The chapters are told from each character’s viewpoints, which I liked, but I did find there were times when we head hopped between characters thoughts. This confused the narrative and I was sometimes left wondering who had been thinking what.

There is a lot of back story that needs to be revealed to the reader, which is understandable for the plot and as I mentioned above I think we could have used a few flashbacks to get the information across in a more involving way. I also thought some of the scenes in the present could have been shown more as there was too much tell and character reflection on things that had just happened. I think the book could have, and should have, been longer – I certainly wouldn’t mind spending longer with these characters and really get to know them better.

There are a few twists towards the end, some of which took me by surprise – always a good thing. But for me the ending was underwhelming and I would have liked something more dramatic for these great characters.

I rate this book 3.5 stars. Why not check it out on goodreads and see what others have to say.

#TuesdayBookBlog The Cornish House by Liz Fenwick #Bookreview #womensfic #romance

Although I planned to read just fantasy this year, I picked this book up one evening for a quick glance and just couldn’t put it down. The house and Cornish setting were the draws, but I just fell into the character’s stories and they wouldn’t let me go.

Here’s the blurb…

When artist Maddie inherits a house in Cornwall shortly after the death of her husband, she hopes it will be the fresh start she and her step-daughter desperately need. Trevenen is beautiful but neglected, and as Maddie discovers the stories of generations of women who’ve lived there before, she begins to feel her life is somehow intertwined within its walls.

But Maddie’s dream of a calm life in the countryside is far from the reality she faces – and as she pulls at the seams of Trevenen’s past, the house reveals secrets that have lain hidden for generations.

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My Review

First thoughts

Although it’s quite an intense subject dealing with loss and a heartbroken step-daughter, I didn’t find this story depressing or difficult to read at any point. There are plenty of tear-jerking moments, as you might expect from a story of second chances. But new friendships and healing play a big part in the story too. And as I expected, the house and its secrets kept me hooked.

Characters

I really like all the characters in this book, the main characters Maddie and her step daughter Hannah, Mark and Old Tom (OT), Tasmin and Will, plus the other characters that play a part in this small Cornish community.

Maddie is an easy protagonist to like and you feel every moment of her suffering and relate to the hard decisions she’s had to make. I also liked the fact she was an artist struggling to find her inspiration again after the loss of her husband.

Trevenen, the house, is a character all of its own. I’d love to inherit an old house like that and restore it.

Writing style

Told mainly from Maddie’s POV, we also get to see the story through Hannah viewpoint and this works really well.

Final thoughts

I loved the layers to this story, the different pieces that come together from the characters’ recent past and much further back in history.

The story intrigued me, the characters came alive and filled my head, I loved every minute of reading it. In fact, I would love to pick it up now and re-read the whole book again. I will definitely be reading more of Liz Fenwick’s books.

Recommend

To anyone who enjoy women’s fiction, not just romance but something a bit extra.

Rating

5 out of 5 stars, though I wish I could give it more.

Check it on Amazon and Goodreads.

Christmas at Lilac Cottage by Holly Martin @HollyMAuthor #bookreview #romance #Christmas #greatreads

During the week before Christmas I wanted to share one of my favourite Christmas reads this year. Christmas at Lilac Cottage has everything; love laughter and tears. Before I give you my review, here’s the blurb…

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Snow is falling on White Cliff Bay, where Christmas is magical and love is in the air . . .

Penny Meadows loves her cosy cottage with its stunning views over the snow-topped town of White Cliff Bay, but not even the roaring log fire can keep her personal life from feeling frozen.

That is until dashing Henry and his daughter Daisy arrive at the cottage for the festive season. And between decking the halls and baking delicious mince pies, Penny realises there is more to Henry than meets the eye.

With sleigh bells ringing and fairy lights twinkling, the ice-sculpting competition and Christmas Eve ball are in full swing. Will Penny be able to melt the ice and allow love into her heart? And will she finally have the perfect Christmas she’s been dreaming of?

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My Review

Summary

I won a copy of this book in a blog competition (thanks Brizzlelass) and have been saving my review to post near to Christmas. I have to say this is the perfect Christmassy read to get you in the mood for the big day. It has everything you could ask for in a story; troubled romance, interfering family and friends, and emotional back story. There are also plenty of laugh out loud moments that had my husband looking at me strangely! I’m smiling to myself right now as I remember some of these scenes. The ending is heart warming and I shed a few tears in places.

Characters

I really liked Penny the main character, and Henry was a proper hero and gentleman. I loved the chemistry between them, though their stubbornness could be annoying at times. One thing I really liked were the characters unusual professions, Penny is an ice-carver and Henry is a carpenter. This added another dimension to the characters and added plenty to the plot.

Setting

White Cliff Bay comes off the page and seems so real. It’s the kind of place I’d love to visit. I love the fact that others stories have been set in the same town, so I know I can visit there again.

Likes

The writing flows so smoothly, that I found myself sucked straight into the characters lives. I immediately liked everyone in the story and wanted them to have their happy ever after.

Dislikes

I did struggle to get into this book at first, not for the writing which is excellent, but just something about it didn’t ring true. I think it was the fact Daisy didn’t act like a typical 16 year old, she was way too thoughtful and kind! I persevered through this minor annoyance and was soon swept away with the story.

Rating

It is hard to pick a rating for this story as by the end it was a 5 star, stay up all night read. But as I did struggle at the beginning, I’m going down the middle and saying it’s a 4.5 star read.

Check it out for yourself on Goodreads, and Amazon UK.

#Tuesdaybookblog A Year and a Day – Isabelle Broom #Bookreview #Romance

This is my first book review for a long time. I’m a bit out of practice, but here goes…

I won a paperback copy of A Year and a Day in a Rafflecopter giveaway run by Brizzlelass. I was instantly drawn to the idea of a book set in Prague as it’s a bucket list destination for me. After reading this, Prague has moved even higher up on my list!

But before I get to what I think, let’s start with the beautiful book cover and the blurb…

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Welcome to a city where wishes are everywhere

For Megan, a winter escape to Prague with her friend Ollie is a chance to find some inspiration for her upcoming photography exhibition. But she’s determined to keep their friendship from becoming anything more. Because if Megan lets Ollie find out about her past, she risks losing everything – and she won’t let that happen again . . .

For Hope, the trip is a surprise treat from Charlie, her new partner. But she’s struggling to enjoy the beauty of the city when she knows how angry her daughter is back home. And that it’s all her fault . . .

For Sophie, the city has always been a magical place. This time she can’t stop counting down the moments until her boyfriend Robin joins her. But in historic Prague you can never escape the past . . .

Three different women.

Three intertwining love stories.

One unforgettable, timeless city.


My Review

This is an addictive read. The way each chapter alternates between the three viewpoint characters – Megan, Hope and Sophie, draws you in completely. I spent a few late nights unable to put it down.

The characters are all likeable and each story thread is compelling and believable. It’s great how each character has their own chapter, but are often with or bumping into the others characters once they all meet in Prague. Megan is the main character of the three, and Ollie (her friend / potential love interest) is definitely my favourite character. I connected with Megan the most perhaps because she is obsessed with photography (I also love taking photos), although I found her reasoning a little nuts and infuriating at times.

There are plenty of heart-warming moments in A Year and a Day, and plenty of times when it reduced me to tears.

Prague really comes alive; you can almost feel as if you are there in the freezing, magical city.

I did guess where much of the plot was going, but that didn’t stop my enjoyment of the story, rather it’s good to be proved right.

In all, A Year and a Day is a brilliantly entertaining novel that I recommend to anyone who enjoys romantic fiction. I will be looking out for more books by Isabelle Broom and look forward to escaping into other parts of the world in her stories.

I rate it 4.5 stars (5 on amazon / goodreads).