Hotel Portofino by J P O’Connell


It’s Italy in 1926 and an English woman called Bella Ainsworth has recently opened the Hotel Portofino. As the guests arrive, we learn their stories alongside the problems Bella faces too, and also the rising tensions of the political movements in Italy itself.

The back cover of the book says ‘perfect for fans of Downton Abbey and The Crown’ and as those are two of my all-time favourite television series, I really wanted to read this book and I wasn’t disappointed. It’s very much a character study, as all the characters are beautifully layered and we learn more about them as each layer is peeled back.

It’s beautifully written, the author has a wonderful grasp of language and it’s one of those novels where on the surface, not much seems to happen. But look underneath and so much is going on! It reminded me of ducks swimming beautifully on a clear pond, but underneath their feet are going madly to keep them afloat.

All of the characters are flawed, but you will still fall in love with many of them, as their fragility and vulnerability is displayed as you continue to turn the pages. It is also a very visual book and there will be a television adaptation coming to BritBox this month and on ITV this summer.

8 ½ out of 10

Barb the Bird of Hope

Barb the Bird of Hope – written and illustrated by Zowie Norris

This tells the story of a beautiful bird called Barb who lives in a laburnum tree in Bretton Park. The bright yellow bird with purple tail feathers is the star of both the story and the gorgeous illustrations in this book. Her difference to the other birds (usually of the grey, brown and black varieties) brings hope to many, reminding them of brighter days and happier times.

It is a short book at only 44 pages, so a quick story to read, yet there is so much in it. It is suitable for all ages and I found it a moving story, beautifully told. It would be ideal for children struggling with the fears of a pandemic, as it deals with lockdown and the changes we have had to deal with over the past couple of years, but in a very positive and hopeful way. There is nothing to scare anyone in these pages, only beauty, joy and seeing the best in every situation. The drawings are also a joy – bright, colourful and charming with lovely details.

It’s a truly stunning book.

Christmas Carols and a Cornish Cream Tea

Christmas Carols and a Cornish Cream Tea by Cressida McLaughlin

Meredith Verren is 27 and works in a gift shop called Cornish Keepsakes in Port Karadow, Cornwall. She lives alone with her dog and cat and enjoys an outdoor swim in the sea every morning in a place she calls Charmed Cove.

She has a good life, enjoys her job and has lovely friends like her best pal Anisha, but Christmas is coming and it’s her least favourite time of the year. But when a stranger called Finn turns up on the beach, will things change for her? Will this Christmas finally be one she can enjoy?

I really enjoyed the characters in this and that it felt like I knew the whole community. I could easily picture Port Karadow and all its little shops and the places that were special to Meredith. It really came to life. I always enjoy reading about pets too and Smudge and Crumble were happy additions to the warmth of the story.

The festive feel to the book is lovely and I enjoyed reading how Anisha’s plans for making the town look ready for Christmas were coming along. Again, I felt like I was walking around the streets, looking at all the decorations and drinking in all the seasonal smells.

It’s a fun read, easy to get into and an enjoyable story.

8 out of 10

A Cornish Christmas Murder

A Cornish Christmas Murder

(A Nosey Parker Cozy Mystery) by Fiona Leitch

Our heroine Jodie Parker has returned from London to Penstowan in Cornwall to set up her catering business, after leaving the police force. But somehow, she always seems to find crimes which need investigating and this time is no different.

The catering van containing Jodie, her mum Shirley, her teenage daughter Daisy (13) and their Pomeranian dog Germaine, plus Debbie (a former nurse) arrives at Kingseat Abbey, where there’s a big children’s Christmas party.

We are soon introduced to the cast of characters, who end up snowed in and have to spend the night at the Abbey together. And one of them does not come out alive…

The book is perfect for this time of year, as it begins on December 20th. I’m a big Agatha Christie fan and this was right up my street! There’s a really great humour in the writing style, it’s very witty and there are wonderful, fun characters you can relate to.

I loved the whole Britishness of it too, it was very heart-warming and held my interest throughout, as we are encouraged to try to work out “whodunnit” and why, as Jodie and friends investigate. It’s a gentle, cosy mystery and I would definitely read more in this series.

One of my favourite quotes was “as an English person, there is nothing I fear more than allowing my tea levels to fall below a certain point and risk dehydrating” – hee hee! So true!

9 out of 10

Author’s social media – Instagram @leitchfiona and Twitter @fkleitch

Cassandra (The Cousins of Pemberley, Book 1) by Linda O’Byrne


Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen is one of my all-time favourite books, so I was keen to read Cassandra, which is inspired by it and features many of the characters we know and love from the classic novel.

In Cassandra (The Cousins of Pemberley, Book 1) the story begins in Newcastle in 1832. Cassandra ‘Cassie’ Wickham – the daughter of Lydia Allerton (one of the Bennet sisters, who married Mr Wickham) – is 18 years old and being presented to society at a regimental ball. Mr Wickham, her father, has died ten years before and Colonel Allerton is her stepfather.

Cassandra is very different to her mother Lydia who loves balls, dancing and regimental gossip. Cassie likes reading and appreciates other who enjoy books, such as Dr Richard Courtney. Lydia wants to marry off her daughter to someone with money and status. During the regimental ball, Cassandra overhears the Colonel arranging a financial agreement to sell her to a man who is a single father and wants someone to be his lover and a mother to his children.

Hating this idea, Cassandra runs away…

Ooh, I loved this, it took me right back to studying Jane Austen for O-level English Lit and falling in love with her world and her characters. Linda O’Byrne has got it just right and it feels like a real sequel, a story that fits in well in every way – the characters (both old and new), the gorgeous settings, the language, everything. She has done a great job and I will look forward to reading the second one in the series.

8.5 out of 10

Author Bio

Fiction has always been my go-to world, a place of entertainment, excitement and imagination – I am told that I wrote my first story when I was four about a lady who had twenty children!   Sadly it has been lost for posterity.

I have been writing all my life in the time I could spare from having a “proper job”, mostly for children under the name of Linda Blake, stories of ballet dancers, pony riding and talking animals!  Not all in the same book!

But my love of romance, a great tendency to say “What if..?” and the endearing characters of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice have now resulted in a series of books that will take the reader forward to the next generation of heroines. 

I am retired, live in Kent and am a keen member of my local drama group.  Directing and acting take up a lot of my time – I have been given the onerous task of writing the Christmas pantomimes – but I still need to cope with a large garden, doing daily battle with the heron who thinks my pond is his own breakfast buffet and keeping in touch with friends and family scattered all over the world.  

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Book Blurb

Many years have passed since the dramatic events of Pride and Prejudice.
In The Cousins of Pemberley series we follow a new generation of heroines – cousins with
lives as different and interesting as those enjoyed by their mothers.


Cassandra Wickham, daughter of a flirt and a scoundrel, an innocent abroad in a world where money can buy you anything, even a bride.

When danger threatens and the man she thought she could rely on fails her, there is only one place she can turn to
for help –


Surely the Darcy’s will protect her, no matter what happened in the past to divide the two families?

Coming March 2022: Miriam – Book 2 in The Cousins of Pemberley series.

The Stepson by Jane Renshaw

THE STEPSON by Jane Renshaw


The book tells the story of Nick Clyde. When he was sixteen, he came home from a day out with his friend to discover their house was empty, his family had disappeared – his father, stepmother and little sister. Now, in 2019, he’s grown up, successful, wealthy, living in London and married to Lulu, who’s a therapist from Australia. But Lulu is realising there’s something a bit strange about Nick…

Back in time to 1997, we read the thoughts of his stepmother Maggie. She is married to Nick’s father Duncan, pregnant and feeling outclassed. She comes home from a classy honeymoon cruise to their house, Sunnyside, where Duncan had lived with his wife Kathleen, who had died eighteen months before. Maggie is trying to fit in, but as she has the baby and settles into her new life, she is realising there’s something a bit strange about Nick…

Wow, this was a rollercoaster ride – up, down, thrills and spills – and I have rarely hated a fictional character as much as I hated Nick! It’s the sort of book you want to keep reading, as you’re desperate to find out what happens! You really feel for the characters involved in this story (and the dog!). It’s very cleverly written, it keeps you guessing right until the last page and it has a great ending too.

9 out of 10

Author Bio

As a child, Jane spent a lot of time in elaborate Lego worlds populated by tiny plastic animals and people. Crime levels were high, especially after the Dragon brothers set themselves up as vets and started murdering the animals in their ‘care’. (They got away with it by propping the victims up with Plasticine and pretending they were still alive…)

As an adult, she is still playing in imaginary worlds and putting her characters through hell – but now she can call it ‘writing’ and convince herself that she is doing something sensible. In real life, she has a PhD in genetics and copy-edits scientific and medical journals.

Jane writes psychological thrillers. The Stepson will be her fourth novel published with Inkubator Books.

Follow her at:


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Book Blurb

He lost one family. Now he’s ready for another.

Psychotherapist Lulu is sure she’s the luckiest woman alive. She has a wonderful job and is married to the love of her life, Nick – who also happens to be ridiculously handsome and fabulously wealthy.

But now a shadow has fallen on her perfect life.

She can see that Nick is struggling with demons from his past. When he was sixteen his entire family disappeared without a trace and Nick has always insisted thathis stepmother – whom he hated – was to blame, that she did something terrible to his beloved father and baby sister. And that trauma has left him feeling that anyone he loves is in danger, might vanish in a heartbeat.

So now he is obsessed with Lulu’s safety. He needs to know where she is 24/7, insists she carries a can of pepper spray, is constantly watching for any potential threats.

Lulu can see that this extreme anxiety is wearing Nick down. And as a therapist, she knows the only way to heal a trauma is to confront it. So she persuades him to return to the country house from which his family vanished.

But soon after they arrive in this sleepy rural community, another person disappears.

As Lulu is forced to question everything she knows about Nick and his missing family, dark secrets emerge from the past. The certainties of her old life fade away and are replaced by a horror she could never have imagined in her wildest nightmares.

The Stepson – the stunning psychological thriller perfect for fans of Teresa Driscoll, K L Slater, Daniel Hurst.

The New Friends by Daniel Hurst

The New Friends by Daniel Hurst


This book tells the story of an ordinary couple called Becky and Jamie, who go on holiday to Spain and end up chatting to a couple called Phil and Mel. Thinking they have found some lovely new friends, they agree to meet up back in England after their holiday. But are Phil and Mel what they seem?

This is a fast read, as you want to find out what happens. It has quite a few twists in, so just as you think you know where it’s heading, it changes direction. I enjoyed reading it and really cared about Becky and Jamie and what was going to happen to them.

Phil and Mel are very interesting characters too and I wanted to understand their motivations behind their actions, and this was explained well in the novel, so it all seemed very believable.

The chapters are told from the perspectives of the main characters, so you have a chance to see the situation through their eyes, which is a very good storytelling device too.

8 out of 10

Author Bio

Daniel Hurst writes psychological thrillers and loves to tell tales about unusual things happening to normal people. He has written all his life, making the progression from handing scribbled stories to his parents as a boy to writing full length novels in his thirties. He lives in the North West of England and when he isn’t writing, he is usually watching a game of football in a pub where his wife can’t find him.

Daniel writes psychological thrillers. The New Friends will be his fourth novel published with Inkubator Books.

Follow him at:




Buy Links

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Amazon US

Book Blurb

They are fun, wealthy, fabulous. Pray you never meet them.

Becky and Jamie are an ordinary hard-working couple trapped in the daily grind, dreaming of an easier life. On one of their rare vacations, they meet a wealthy couple, Phil and Mel, who seem to have it all – they are fun, well travelled, and very generous with their money.

But they are also very, very dangerous.

Because Phil and Mel are not who they say they are. And this is no random vacation friendship, they have chosen Jamie and Becky carefully, seducing them with the promise of a lifestyle just like theirs.

By the time Jamie and Becky realise what their new friends really want, it’s too late, they’ve lost everything, their hopes and dreams lie shattered.

The only question now is how far will they go to get even?

The New Friends – the stunning psychological thriller from the bestselling author of The Passenger, The Boyfriend, The Promotion.

@dhurstbooks @inkubatorbooks @zooloosbt #TheNewFriends #ZooloosBookTours

A Not So Quiet Christmas by Suzie Tullett

A Not So Quiet Christmas by Suzie Tullett

Antonia is 34 years old and after her friend Jules breaks her leg, she is persuaded to spend Christmas in Jules’s aunt’s cottage in Little Leatherington, taking her mate’s dog Frank along with her. She loves London and busy cities and hates the quiet life of the countryside, so what could go wrong? Seeing it as a bit of a chore, Antonia begins her stay but isn’t expecting anything very pleasant to come out of it. But as she arrives at 3 Bluebell Row for the first time, she meets the letting agent Oliver Chase and her interest is piqued… Was she going to get the quiet Christmas break she hoped for?

This book is funny, I laughed out loud several times and smiled a lot. Antonia gets herself into several situations and you can’t help but feel sorry for her. She meets different villagers, each one a real character. You follow her story with interest and delight.

The book is well-written with realistic characters and you are rooting for Antonia throughout. Frank the dog is lovely too, I enjoyed him being in there.

It’s festive too, as you’d expect, but the whole novel is a treat. I really enjoyed my time spent in its pages.

9 out of 10


A Not So Quiet Christmas

A solo getaway at an English country cottage is a pleasant way to spend the holiday—but it takes two to really make things merry . . .

Antonia prefers a quiet Christmas. She’s happy to spend it on her own, watching Hallmark holiday movies in her pyjamas, eating what she wants, when she wants.

Antonia’s friend Jules, on the other hand, loves a big Christmas celebration and plans on travelling to the Yorkshire Dales for a festive break. But when Jules breaks her leg, she persuades Antonia to make the trip on her behalf. Arriving at the little cottage, Antonia meets the handsome property agent Oliver. But she can’t escape the weird locals—or avoid embarrassing situations like mistaking a cow for a burglar.

As Christmas approaches, the attraction between Oliver and Antonia grows. She could choose to return to the bustling city and spend it alone. Or she could choose love and have a not so quiet Christmas . . .

A Not So Quiet Christmas eBook : Tullett, Suzie: Kindle Store

A Not So Quiet Christmas eBook by Suzie Tullett – 9781504073486 | Rakuten Kobo United Kingdom

‎A Not So Quiet Christmas on Apple Books

A Not So Quiet Christmas by Suzie Tullett | NOOK Book (eBook) | Barnes & Noble® (

Author Bio –

Suzie Tullett is an author of contemporary humorous fiction and romantic comedy. She has a Masters Degree in Television & Radio Scriptwriting and worked as a scriptwriter before becoming a full-time novelist. When she’s not busy creating her own literary masterpieces, she usually has her head in someone else’s.

Suzie lives in a little cottage on the Wild Atlantic Way in Ireland, along with her husband and two Greek rescue dogs.

Social Media Links –

Suzie Tullett (Author) | Facebook

The Golden Girls’ Getaway by Judy Leigh

The Golden Girls Getaway by Judy Leigh

104 Drayton Mews in London is three flats occupied by three single women.

Vivienne Goldman is 71 and lives in the top flat. She’s an actress in a TV soap called The Edge of Edgeware. Her co-star Lennie is her ex-boyfriend.

Gwen Prichard is Welsh, 74 and a former professional singer. She lives in the ground floor flat and is pursued by their landlord – Vicente de Lorenzo, who loves her.

Mary Molloy is 80, a retired nurse from Ireland and lives in the basement flat.

The novel begins during the pandemic, with face masks, vaccinations and lockdowns, which I found really interesting. It shows how each of the three women has reacted to the situation too.

Once lockdown eases, the three women decide to borrow Vicente’s campervan and go off on an adventure. This forms the main part of the novel.

I absolutely loved this book. The main characters are brilliant, all really interesting and inspiring women you can completely believe in. You’ll be cheering them all on and hoping their dreams come true. It’s such a lovely book – warm, uplifting, involving. You’ll wish you were on holiday with them.

Judy Leigh is a wonderful writer and I have already bought another of her books.

9 out of 10


The Golden Girls’ Getaway

It has been a long and lonely year for neighbours Vivienne, Mary and Gwen. All ladies of a ‘certain age’, their lockdown experience has left them feeling isolated and alone. They are in desperate need of a change.

Things start to look up however, when Gwen comes up with a plan to get them out of London by borrowing a motor home. In no time at all the ladies are on the road – away from the city, away from their own four walls, and away from their worries.

The British countryside has never looked more beautiful. As they travel from Stonehenge to Dartmoor, from the Devon and Cornish coasts to the Yorkshire moors, gradually the years fall back, and the three friends start to imagine new futures with no limitations.

And as their journey continues and their friendships deepen, and while the seaside views turn into glorious mountains and moors, Mary, Vivienne and Gwen learn to smile again, to laugh again, and maybe even to love again. Now they can believe that the best is still to come…

Purchase Link –

Author Bio –

Judy Leigh is the bestselling author of Five French Hens , A Grand Old Time and The Age of Misadventure and the doyenne of the ‘it’s never too late’ genre of women’s fiction. She has lived all over the UK from Liverpool to Cornwall, but currently resides in Somerset.

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A Winter Wedding at Mistletoe Gate Farm

A Winter Wedding at Mistletoe Gate Farm by Helen J Rolfe

Tilly is thirty years old and owns a shop called Tilly’s Bits ‘n’ Pieces in Heritage Cove, a village on the east coast of England, where the novel is set. (This is Book 4 in the Heritage Cove series, but works well as a standalone book too.)

Benjamin Doyle lives at Mistletoe Gate Farm, which is owned by his parents Danny and Heather. He’s also the chef in The Copper Plough pub. Benjamin and Tilly fancy each other, but don’t seem to be able to get round to telling the other one!

Tilly’s friends Harvey and Melissa are getting married soon and Tilly is one of their bridesmaids. After a storm destroys their planned wedding venue, they have to find somewhere else in the village.

Then a stranger turns up, claiming to be Tilly’s Uncle Scott, though she’s never heard of him…

The novel is lovely and festive, with lots of Christmas trees and mistletoe and celebrations going on, which make it perfect to read at this time of year. This is also a very individual thing, but I was also pleasantly surprised to find there weren’t any swearing or sex scenes in the novel, which is just how I like it! But there’s excitement, intrigue, things going on and yes, there’s romance, but that’s more of an underlying theme than the main focus of the story in many ways.

It has a great community feel to it, I loved getting to know the villagers and where they worked, who they lived with and so on. It felt like moving somewhere new and finding out that there are loads of lovely people nearby. The novel is warm and cuddly and I loved it!

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