I received this book prior to publication via Netgalley and am grateful to have been given the chance to read this immersive summer read. Publication date is set as 13th May 2021.
A warm, sun-baked terrace.
The rustle of verdant green vines.
The sun slowly dipping behind the Umbrian mountains.
And the chink of wine glasses as the first cork of the evening is popped…
Welcome to Italy. A place that holds the answer to Zia-Lucia Costa Chalmers’ many questions. Not least, how she ended up with such a mouthful of a name.
When Zia discovers that her mother wasn’t who she thought she was, she realises the time has come to search out the Italian family she’s never known.
However, as she delves into the secrets of her past, she doesn’t bargain on having to think about her future too. But with local vineyard owner, Piero, living next door, Zia knows she has a serious distraction who may prove difficult to ignore…
This summer, join Zia as she sets out to uncover her past. But can she find the future she’s always dreamed of along the way?
As soon as I started reading about Zia, I got lost in her story and was desperate to unravel the mystery of her past. I gladly followed her journey from Brighton to Italy and rejoiced when she met the delectable Italian, Piero. They were made to be together but scheming ex’s and shady family dealings threaten any future happiness before it can begin.
I loved the setting, the Italian family Zia is desperate to connect with and the sense of place you get in this book. On a grim, grey days in the UK, there is no better place to be than the Umbrian Mountains ‘Under the Italian Sun’.
An immersive romance, with plenty of emotional impact and scorching moments that have little to do with the weather!
I always enjoy Jo Thomas’ books and these two were no exception. It did take me a bit to get into one of them but then the characters wormed their way into my heart and I really enjoyed both books. Below are the blurbs and my brief reviews.
Winter Beneath the Stars
Halley has been running from her problems for years.
On a courier trip to Tallfors, deep in Swedish Lapland, everything is going to plan. Halley has her bag, with two precious wedding rings inside for delivery… until she doesn’t.
The only way to save the wedding is to team up with mysterious reindeer herder Bjorn, the one person who can lead her across the snowy tundra to be reunited with her bag.
On a journey of a lifetime beneath the stars, with only the reindeer and a bad-tempered stranger for company beside the fire, Halley realises that she will need to confront her past heartaches in order to let the warmth of love in once more…
My Brief Review
I did have to suspend my disbelief with this one as the premise of the story just didn’t seem plausible. Halley is a courier delivering special wedding rings that get lost when her hand luggage is accidently swapped with someone else’s. I could not get over the fact she could have carried the rings on her person. Of course there would be no story then, but it really bugged me for a while.
Anyway, it goes to show if you can just let something go and keep reading you may just be surprised. It was a great story about two people struggling to overcome their personal issues and hopefully find love. The setting was very special and really made the book come alive for me. Plus I loved the husky dogs. In the end it was a brilliant read and I loved Halley and Bjorn.
Finding Love at the Christmas Market
Residential-home caterer Connie has had one online-dating disaster too many. Hurt in the past and with her son to consider, now she’s feeling hesitant. Then one of Connie’s residents sets her up on a date at a beautiful German Christmas market – with the promise she’ll take a mini-bus full of pensioners along with her…
Amongst the twinkling lights and smell of warm gingerbread in the old market square, Connie heads off on her date with a checklist of potential partner must-haves. Baker Henrich ticks all the boxes, but when Connie meets Henrich’s rival William, she starts to wonder if ticking boxes is the answer.
Will Connie’s wish for love this Christmas come true, and if so – with who?
My Brief Review
This is was a lovely Christmas read and an original story idea where Connie takes the old folks from the retirement home on a jaunt to a Christmas market in Germany. They visit a bakery, which features in the story quite a lot. I loved these scenes and all the descriptions of the delicious food. At first I found the many characters from the retirement home hard to keep track of, but it all fell into place and I really enjoyed the story. I also loved how everyone had a Christmas wish and they made a pact to help each other fulfil them.
Another recommended read. Jo Thomas is a master at telling heart warming stories with characters you fall in love with.
Suzanne Rogerson – Author of epic fantasy and romance.
A lovely book, I stayed up way too late most nights reading this because I just had to know what happened next.
In the idyllic seaside town of St Carys, Sophie is putting the past firmly behind her.
When Josh arrives in St Carys to run the family hotel, he can’t understand why Sophie has zero interest in letting any man into her life. He also can’t understand how he’s been duped into employing Sophie’s impulsive friend Tula, whose crush on him is decidedly unrequited.
St Carys has more than its fair share of characters, including the charming but utterly feckless surfer Riley Bryant, who has a massive crush on Tula. Riley’s aunt is superstar author Marguerite Marshall. And Marguerite has designs on Josh’s grandfather…who in turn still adores his glamorous ex-wife, Dot…
Just how many secrets can one seaside town keep?
My brief review
This is a perfect example of a feel-good, heart-warming romance.
I fell in love with the main characters, Sophie and Josh, but also with the many side characters and their stories. I honestly didn’t want to stop reading this and I’m sad the story is over.
I loved the location, which was my initial draw for picking up this book, a seaside escape whilst stuck in lockdown!
I enjoyed reading about Sophie’s career as a freelance photographer and her backstory was a powerful one. The many love matches in this book are a huge bonus, especially Sophie’s best friend Tula.
Thanks to this book, and Meet me at Beachcoomber’s Bay, Jill Mansell has become one of my favourite romance authors. I don’t think anyone who picks up this book could dispute her talent for weaving immersive tales that stay with you long after the books are finished.
I recently ran a poll on twitter to determine whether an author should have different names if they write in different genres.
It was an interesting experiment and I’m very happy the results fit with my plans to publish both fantasy and romance under the same name.
Here is the results poll…
4 people out of 20 prefer an author to have different names when they publish in different genres, whilst 7 people suggest the same name is fine. With 9 out of 20 people happy with either option, I take that as a successful result for using the same name.
So hopefully very soon, Suzanne Rogerson will be an indie author of both fantasy and romance books. I will be back soon with more news.
Thanks very much to those who have voted and commented. If you still want to have your say, please reply to this post. I’d love to know your thoughts.
Suzanne Rogerson – Author of epic fantasy and heart-warming romance
As an indie author I love the freedom I have to publish what I want, when I want. I’ve been building my platform as a fantasy author since 2015, but when we first went into lockdown in March 2020 I found myself drawn to the more light-hearted escapism of romance. This new direction has been an exciting change and I’m now planning to publish a 7 book romance series.
As I get closer to completing the first book, I’ve begun to wonder what to do about publishing in this new genre. Should I stick with Suzanne Rogerson or come up with a new name so my fantasy readers won’t mistakenly buy my romance?
I would prefer to keep all my writing under the same name, but I’m interested to get some advice from you guys. So, please take part in this twitter poll and comment in the post with your thoughts.
Thanks very much.
Suzanne Rogerson – Author of epic fantasy and romance
I read this book just after Christmas. I loved the two protagonists, Hannah and Nico, and their story had me glued to the pages. Here’s the blurb from Amazon…
A sparkling Christmas read from the Sunday Times bestseller – perfect to snuggle up with this winter!
Hannah and Nico are meant to be together.
But fate is keeping them apart…
As soon as Hannah bumps into her brother Rob’s best friend Nico in Stockholm, the two rekindle a fast friendship. But Hannah has a boyfriend – and Nico has two children to look after.
When Hannah loses her beloved shop in Stockholm, though, she is forced to move back to the little village of Middledip – only to find Nico has just moved in too. Under the same snowy sky, can the childhood friends make a romance work – or are there too many obstacles standing in their way?
My Brief Review
Oh my goodness, this story blew me away. I loved Nico and his kids and really wanted him to find his happy ever after with Hannah from the moment they were together on the page. Fate keeps getting in the way of these two people who are so clearly made for each other.
The locations were wonderfully described, both in Stockholm and the UK.
It was impossible to put this book down. It had plenty of fun but also heartfelt moments that had me secretly crying into my pillow. One of my favourite reads of 2020.
This is a 5 star read, and one you don’t have to wait to read at Christmas. Pick it up now I say!
Note – after reading this story I see there are other books set in Middledip. It clearly works as a standalone as I didn’t feel I was missing anything. And now I’m excited to read the other books set in Middledip and start a new adventure.
Suzanne Rogerson – Author of epic and heroic fantasy
I plan to read at least 20 books in 2021. I’ve already finished off one book from last year, so that’s 19 to go. A review of Sue Moorcroft’s Christmas Wishes will follow soon. Here’s a spoiler though – it’s a 5 star read!
Here is my reading plan so far. There are 550 books on my TBR, so I still have plenty of others to choose from. I am a mood reader, so it will be interesting to see if I stick to this list.
Raven Storm – book 3. I’ve just started this and I’m really enjoying getting back into the Fire Walker series by Emma Miles.
Some of my next fantasy reads will hopefully be…
I like to read a paperback and kindle book at the same time, so the paperback I’m currently reading is another Jo Thomas – A Winter Beneath the Stars. 50 pages in, so far so good.
These are a few more that I want to read very soon.
I still have some non-fiction books I want to read too.
That will do for now…
What are your reading plans for 2021?
Suzanne Rogerson – Author of epic and heroic fantasy
2020 was a good reading year for me. I set my goal on Goodreads as 15 but I managed to read 30. I haven’t reviewed many of these books, but I hope to do a better job this year.
I love reading people’s wrap up book posts, so I thought I would share my own. Hopefully this will make up for the fact I haven’t done many reviews through 2020.
Daevabad trilogy by S.A Chakraborty – 5 stars. I loved everything about this series. Imaginative, unusual, great setting, wonderful characters. I hope Chakraborty has a new book out soon, definitely up there with my favourite authors.
Firewalker Series by Emma Miles – 5 star series so far. I loved the first two books in the series and plan to make book 3 one of my first reads for 2021. Here’s my review of the series so far.
Fallible Justice by Laura Laakso. A cool start to a Urban Fantasy series that I hope to continue with this year. Here’s my review.
Sword and Pen by Rachel Caine. Last book in the Great Library books and I loved it. 5 stars across the whole series! Don’t know why I didn’t get around to reviewing it. My goodreads review;
The perfect end to the series. I loved reading these books over the last few years but feel it reached a natural and very satisfying conclusion. I imagine the characters having the happy ever after they deserve, at least for a little while!
Origins – Summoner series by Taran Matharu – Enjoyable and quick origin story for younger readers. It entertained me at the time though I’m ashamed to admit I don’t remember much of it. I know my son loved the series a few years ago, so it might be worth revisiting one day.
The Last Wish by Andrezej Sapkowski – I loved the Witcher series on Netflix and although this was a good introduction to the books, I didn’t love it as much as I was hoping too.
As I started writing a romance series myself in 2020, I challenged myself to read as many romances as I could. I’ve read some really great books but again haven’t reviewed as many as I would like.
Escape to the French Farmhouse by Jo Thomas. Another fantastic romance by Jo Thomas. My review.
The Chestnut Tree by Jo Thomas. A sweet novella with Jo Thomas’ usual magic.
Chocolate Wishes by Trisha Ashley. Not a bad read, kept me entertained but I didn’t love it.
The Little Kiosk by the Sea by Jennifer Bohnet. Pretty good read.
Meet me at Beachcomer Bay by Jill Mansell. Very enjoyable story and I will be reading more of Jill Mansell’s books.
Katie’s Cornish Kitchen by Rosie Chambers – Another enjoyable romance that I highly recommend.
Finding Love at the Christmas Market by Jo Thomas – A heart-warming Christmas story. Maybe not quite as great as Jo’s other books but still very, very good!
Children of Sinai by Shelley Clarke – As I state in my review, this is a hard book to put into a category. It is well worth a read though. Check out my review here.
Operation Dawn Wolf by G.J. Stevens. This was a fast paced read, very gripping. Here’s my review.
White Knight, Black Swan – Ross Harding (David Gemmell fantasy legend!) A thriller by the great fantasy author David Gemmell. Despite it not being fantasy, it was still a great read.
Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey. I was surprisingly hooked by this book. It is worth a read.
I got really into my non-fiction books towards the end of 2020 and read quite a few on the craft of writing. They are all good and worth a read. I hope to share a bit more of a review on them in the future. For now, here are the covers to show what I’ve been reading…
Nigel by Monty Don – Lovely book about the dogs in Monty’s life. A tearjerker if you’re an animal person.
Astronomy by Patrick Moore – A research book for my Starlight Prophecy series though it wasn’t quite what I was looking for.
And that’s it as far as I can tell. It has been great to look back over my reads and it has inspired me to keep going through 2021. I’ve set my reading goal to 20. Who knows how the year will pan out. I am hoping to do a lot more writing this year and that is more important than anything else right now.
Happy reading and I look forward to sharing more books with you very soon.
Have you read any of these books? Do you have any favourites?
Suzanne Rogerson – Author of epic and heroic fantasy
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!
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.
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.
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.
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?
Suzanne Rogerson – Author of epic and heroic fantasy