Clara’s Christmas Magic by Rosie Green

NOTE: This is the third in the trilogy of novellas about Clara and I would definitely recommend reading them in order.

I do love a Rosie Green story and Clara is such a wonderful character, I have really enjoyed getting to know her in Clara’s Secret Garden and following her adventures in A Winter Wish, so I was excited about reading Clara’s Christmas Magic and discovering what was in store for her in the third and final book in the series.

At the end of the second book, Clara and Rory finally kissed! But at the start of this story, Clara realises a relationship between them could never work out, after he has recently been romantically involved with Lois, Clara’s step-sister.

With nosy neighbour Pru threatening to report Irene as a bad mother, and Clara and Rory planning to head to New York to try to find Clara’s grandmother’s sister, there’s plenty going on here. Following Book 2, I was eager to catch up with the characters and the storylines in this final part.

The part set in New York is lovely. Never having been there, it was fun to see it all through Clara and Rory’s eyes and it did feel like I was there with them. We also meet single mum Francie and her daughter Blaise there and I thought they were both great characters too.

I want to say so much more about how I love certain characters and how the whole book made me smile, but I don’t want to give away any spoilers. So just to say I LOVED this trilogy and I’m so pleased Rosie Green is going to include some of the characters in her future books, as I don’t want to lose them forever either.

9 out of 10

Clara’s Christmas Magic

The festive season is fast approaching but with the challenges facing Clara, it looks like being anything but the most wonderful time of the year. Can she somehow find the strength to meet those challenges head-on and find her way to the perfect, happy-ever-after Christmas?

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Author Bio – Rosie’s series of novellas is centred around life in a country village cafe. ‘Clara’s Christmas Magic’ is Book 3 in a trilogy about Clara. It would make for the best reading experience if you caught up with the others first: Book 1, ‘Clara’s Secret Garden’ and Book 2 in the trio, ‘A Winter Wish’.

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Behind Closed Doors by Carol Wyer

Earlier this year, I read A Life for a Life by Carol Wyer and really enjoyed it, so I was looking forward to reading her latest release – Behind Closed Doors.

The book begins with a prologue set in July 1992, then we fast-forward to April 2022. Stacey O’Hara is the main character in the book. Thirty years before, she was abducted and had lost a finger aged sixteen, but she can’t recall her memories of the events from that time due to dissociative amnesia.

Now forty-six, she has rebuilt her life. She has moved to Lancashire and is the senior reporter on the Lancaster Echo. Then one day, her ex-husband Jack Corrigan turns up and asks for her help. His daughter, Lyra (13) is in trouble, abducted and held against her will, like Stacey was… and he thinks Stacey is the only person who can help find her.

You are thrown right into the action here, there’s no preamble, there’s a crisis and you want to know more. There’s already tension because Stacey and Jack are exes and you soon find out Jack wasn’t the best husband ever. So there’s very little breathing space here, you’re on edge waiting to see what is going to happen and because Stacey isn’t really sure of Jack, the reader isn’t either, which adds to the tension. Can he really be trusted?

And then there’s Freya – Jack’s first wife and Lyra’s mother. Does she have a part to play in any of this? Nothing seems certain and the reader sways one way, then the other, trying to come up with answers. Who would do this and why? Is it a stranger or someone Lyra knows? How much danger is she in?

I really liked Stacey and felt sorry for her. I also liked Ashraf and thought his inclusion added a lot to the story, as did Danni’s, and it was good to get other people’s ideas and perspectives on the situation and what to do about it.

The book is set across four days – and what a whirlwind those four days are! It is fast-paced and holds your interest right until the end – and no, I didn’t guess who was behind it all either…

Author Bio

USA Today bestselling author and winner of The People’s Book Prize Award, Carol Wyer’s crime novels have sold over one million copies and been translated into nine languages.

A move from humour to the ‘dark side’ in 2017, saw the introduction of popular DI Robyn Carter in Little Girl Lost and proved that Carol had found her true niche.

February 2021 saw the release of the first in the much-anticipated new series, featuring DI Kate Young. An Eye For An Eye was chosen as a Kindle First Reads and became the #1 bestselling book on Amazon UK and Amazon Australia.

Carol has had articles published in national magazines ‘Woman’s Weekly’, featured in ‘Take A Break’, ‘Choice’, ‘Yours’ and ‘Woman’s Own’ magazines and the Huffington Post. She’s also been interviewed on numerous radio shows discussing ”Irritable Male Syndrome’ and ‘Ageing Disgracefully’ and on BBC Breakfast television.

She currently lives on a windy hill in rural Staffordshire with her husband Mr. Grumpy… who is very, very grumpy. When she is not plotting devious murders, she can be found performing her comedy routine, Smile While You Still Have Teeth.

To learn more, go to, subscribe to her YouTube channel, or follow her on Twitter: @carolewyer

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Book Blurb

Two kidnappings, thirty years apart. Can Stacey face her own dark past in order to save her stepdaughter?

When Stacey’s ex-husband turns up on her doorstep begging her to help save his kidnapped thirteen-year-old daughter, Lyra, the terror is all too familiar. Stacey’s own violent kidnapping thirty years ago was never solved, and while a severe case of amnesia spares her from recalling the specific horrors, she remembers enough…

Stacey knows her father never paid the ransom—she has the missing pinkie finger to prove it. She knows she was only saved because of an anonymous tip-off to the police. And she knows her captor was never apprehended.

Lyra’s kidnappers have made it clear the police must not get involved. But Stacey can’t shake the eerie similarities between the two cases, and she’ll use whatever she can, from her journalistic powers to her shady contacts, to save Lyra from the same nightmare. Desperate to find any link between Lyra’s abduction and her own, Stacey forces herself to revisit her forgotten, traumatic past for clues.

But can she make sense of the terrible secrets she unearths in time to save Lyra? And if she does, is she ready to face her own tormentor?

The Word is Love by Florence Keeling

This is the second book set in Weddington, following on from A Little in Love, but is a standalone novel telling the story of Lucy.

Lucy Greenfield is 29 and works in a livery yard and stables, along with her best friend Max Wells, who is the stable manager. Her two Shire horses – Topsy and Tim – are now in demand after being featured in a film, so they take them all around the country for weddings. Despite this, they are still struggling to make enough money to continue to improve their business and build a new stable block.

Lucy is a great character and you’re rooting from her straight away, she’s really relatable and authentic. You start off by thinking she should have a relationship with the lovely Max, but then Spencer Heath turns up at the stables and they’re attracted to each other immediately, so what will happen? Read the book to find out…

As an animal lover, this book is a joy with all the horses (I used to ride too!) and Parker the black Labrador. If you are a fan of anything horsey, this will be an ideal read for you. I really enjoyed meeting all the equine stars in here.

I also love a good community spirit in a novel and we have that here, with a wonderful supporting cast of villagers, including the brilliant Fanny Longbottom, who has a great personality. There’s also June (Lucy’s mum) who is the events manager at nearby Coombe Castle and is often at Lucy’s house. She is very opinionated and keeps nagging Lucy about finding a boyfriend and settling down. There are plenty of great characters here, all of them completely believable.

I also love the cover of this book, it’s just beautiful! It has such gorgeous colours.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to readers of romance and anyone who loves horses.


The Word is Love

Lucky in life but unlucky in love, Lucy Greenfield owns a successful carriage business along with her best friend Max, and they have never been busier since their shire horses gained fame from their roles in the hit movie A Little in Love.

Too busy for romance, Lucy is surprisingly swept off her feet when Spencer arrives seeking help with his horse, and something more from Lucy. As quickly as Lucy falls, she wonders if all is not as it seems. Max can prove it, but that means he will have to express his true feelings for Lucy.

Relationships are strained as secrets unravel, and Lucy needs to solve the riddle of words to best describe how she feels… For her best friend.

Together, they must overcome what’s keeping them apart before it’s too late, if they are going to realise that the word is love.

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Author Bio –

I was born in Coventry but now live in Nuneaton. I married the love of my life over 20 years ago and we have two almost grown up children. We share our lives with two mad dogs as well.

Writing is a great passion of mine, that one day I hope to be able to turn into a career but until that day comes, I will continue working in accounts and payroll.

I also write for children as Lily Mae Walters.

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The Good News Gazette by Jessie Wells

Zoe Taylor is 33 years old and lives in Westholme with her football-loving son Charlie (8) and Lola the cat. She (Zoe, not Lola the cat) works as a journalist on the local newspaper The Northern News – or at least, she does until she is made redundant.

She meets up with her best friends Emma and Beth for sympathy and wine and they discuss ideas about what Zoe could now do for a job. Despairing at the amount of bad news printed in the local newspaper and on the local Facebook page, they have an idea for Zoe to produce a newspaper focusing on positive news stories – The Good News Gazette.

I found the story really easy to get into, it’s written really well with lots of humour and relatable situations (such as the countless school charity days parents need money for – oh yes!) and great characters. Zoe is lovely, I liked her immediately and loved her excuse for being late to work!

Zoe, Emma and Beth all attend a slimming club called Slim City and boy, could I relate to that too. We’ve all had a leader like Barbara, I’m sure! Well, maybe not quite so bad… but I recognised many aspects of the club!

The community feel is really good in the novel, especially when the café and other shops on the parade become under threat from the possibility of a big supermarket redevelopment. This all leads to a campaign organised by Zoe and in all this, it’s great to see people rallying around to help out.

There’s so much in the book that is wonderful, but one point I need to make is how accurate the Westholme Community Facebook page is. When I read the complaints about dog poo, it reminded me so much of my old village and I’m sure that was the top complaint there too! Beautifully observed.

The Good News Gazette is a lovely book full of warmth, heart and positivity. Just what we all need to read!


The Good News Gazette

Because we all need something to smile about!

She may be down but don’t count this determined single mum out just yet…

Nine years ago, Zoe Taylor returned from London to the quiet hamlet of Westholme with her tail between her legs and a bun in the oven. Where once her job as a journalist saw her tearing off to Paris at a moment’s notice after a lead, now the single mum covers the local news desk. At least, she did…until she’s unceremoniously let go.

When Zoe invites her friends over to commiserate, wine and whining soon turns into something more… and before the night is out she’s plotted her next step: The Good News Gazette.

Now, as a developer threatens to force Westholme into the twenty-first century, Zoe’s good news movement finds her leading a covert campaign as a community crusader. She may have started The Good News Gazette as a way to save herself, but she might just be able to save Westholme in the process…

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Author Bio –

Jessie Wells lives with her husband and two children in Merseyside. She has always written in some form, and previously worked as a journalist on the Liverpool Echo and Sunday Mirror and as a freelancer for various national women’s magazines and newspapers before moving into finance. She loves nothing more than getting lost in her imaginary worlds, which are largely filled with romance, communities bursting with character and a large dose of positivity.

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Shake It Up, Beverley by Suzan Holder

As soon as I heard about this book, I wanted to read it. It’s got a fun cover, the blurb sounds great and it says it’s perfect for fans of Milly Johnson, which I am! I also loved that the main character, Beverley, is in her fifties like I am.

So, onto the story…

Beverley Wilson is from Liverpool, a widowed mum of three grown up sons and a part-time estate agent. She is also a huge fan of The Beatles and has just bought Paul McCartney’s childhood home in an auction. This has catapulted her into unwanted fame, the tabloids calling her Beatles Bev.

Meanwhile, encouraged by her friend Jools, Beverley decides to try online dating. Having tried this myself, I could definitely relate to her experiences. But then she meets Scott Smith, who also adores The Beatles. Could she finally have found her perfect match? Obviously, you’ll have the read the book yourself to find that out…

The book is written in the first person, so we hear Beverley’s voice and understand her well. It’s a lovely chatty style of writing, which makes the book very accessible and easy to get into. It’s very funny, witty and relatable. (We’ve all been there with our full wardrobes, but nothing to wear!) It does tear along at quite a pace though and sometimes you just want to tell Bev to shut up for a few minutes! 😀

The other characters in the book are well-written too. Jools is just lovely and I thought Tina in the clothes shop was spot on, beautifully observed! We’ve all met a Tina in a clothes shop!

I enjoyed the Liverpool setting, especially as I was there earlier this month for the World Gymnastics Championships. (We took photos at The Beatles statue on the Pier Head, which is mentioned in the book!) This meant I connected well with the places in the novel and enjoyed reading about some familiar streets and landmarks. If you’re a fan of The Beatles, you’ll love this book, as there’s a lot of great detail in it about their lives.

A fun read with lots of laughs throughout.


The perfect, laugh out loud read for fans of Milly Johnson, Cathy Bramley and Jill Mansell!

Beverley Wilson has always loved the Beatles but kissing a poster goodnight isn’t really an option when you’re a fifty-something mum of three. So when she decides it’s time to get back into the dating game, she turns to a dating agency for help.

But the long and winding road to real love is littered with dating disasters – the pantyhose pervert being the real low point and in Bev’s opinon it’s all too much. But meeting fellow Beatles fan Scott Smith changes everything…

This hilarious romantic comedy explores life, love and lonely hearts in the suburbs of Liverpool. Is Bev’s attempt to shake things up foolish…or the bravest thing she’s done?

Dastardly Deeds at St Bride’s by Debbie Young

(A Gemma Lamb Cosy Mystery)

Gemma Lamb is thirty years old, she’s just split up with her long-term boyfriend Steven and has taken a job as a teacher at St Bride’s School for Girls – mainly because she’s now homeless and the job comes with accommodation. Set in a beautiful former stately home, it’s an idyllic setting and she is told all the staff and pupils are female, so Gemma feels it should be a good place to live and work.

We meet a variety of staff members at the private boarding school and many of the hundred pupils. I like the “not quite swearing” the girls do, that’s very clever. There are lots of funny bits and I loved the character of the P.E. teacher as well.

I also adored the Headmistress Miss Harnett, who has a fabulous black cat and is more concerned about appointing members of staff who show warmth and kindness, rather than considering their academic qualifications. I loved her attitude to the parents who expected special treatment, like wanting their daughter to be a prefect or Head Girl.

I adored the Malory Towers books as a child and hoped this series would be similar. While Malory Towers was wonderfully old-fashioned, the St Bride’s series is set in the present day along with all the trappings of modern life, like social media and e-books. However, it does have a charm and quirkiness of its own. The girls are certainly not of the St Trinian’s ilk, they seem very well-behaved and maybe the odd mischievous girl would have been a fun addition, but I did enjoy it.

This is the first of three books set at St Bride’s and I look forward to reading the other two. I enjoyed the setting, the characters and I would like to see what happens next.

Dastardly Deeds at St Brides

When Gemma Lamb takes a job at a quirky English girls’ boarding school, she believes she’s found the perfect escape route from her controlling boyfriend – until she discovers the rest of the staff are hiding sinister secrets:

  • Hairnet, the eccentric headmistress who doesn’t hold with academic qualifications
  • Oriana Bliss, Head of Maths and master of disguise
  • Joscelyn Spryke, the suspiciously rugged Head of PE
  • Geography teacher Mavis Brook, surreptitiously selling off the library books
  • creepy night watchman Max Security, with his network of hidden tunnels

Even McPhee, the school cat, is leading a double life.

Tucked away in the school’s beautiful private estate in the Cotswolds, can Gemma stay safe and build a new independent future, or will past secrets catch up with her and the rest of the staff?

With a little help from her new friends, including some wise pupils, she’s going to give it her best shot…

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Sinister Stranger at St Brides

When an American stranger turns up claiming to be the rightful owner of the school’s magnificent country estate it could spell trouble for everyone at St Bride’s . . .

No one can believe it when the headmistress, Hairnet, instantly accepts the stranger’s claim, not:

  • the put-upon Bursar, ousted from his cosy estate cottage by the stranger
  • the enigmatic Max Security, raring to engage in a spot of espionage
  • the sensible Judith Gosling, who knows more about Lord Bunting than she’s letting on
  • the irrepressible Gemma Lamb, determined to keep the school open

Only fickle maths teacher Oriana Bliss isn’t suspicious of the stranger, after all she can just marry him and secure St Bride’s future forever. That’s if inventive pranks by the girls – and the school cat – don’t drive him away first.

Who will nab the stranger first? Oriana with the parson’s noose? Gemma with sinister secrets? Or could this be the end of St Bride’s?

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Wicked Whispers at St Brides

Gemma Lamb is ready for an uneventful term at St Bride’s, she’s had enough of dastardly deeds and sinister strangers.

However, she’s barely back at school before:

  • Unlucky in love Oriana is sneaking around at odd hours
  • Handsome Joe is keeping secrets
  • Militant Mavis feels a scandal is brewing

It’s all a bit much, but when a stranger appears Gemma thinks she’s had enough. But this stranger isn’t so sinister, instead he looks rather too familiar. If Gemma can’t get him away from the school the whispers and scandal his presence could unleash may just close St Bride’s doors for good.

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Author Bio –

Debbie Young is the much-loved author of the Sophie Sayers and St Brides cosy crime mysteries. She lives in a Cotswold village where she runs the local literary festival, and has worked at Westonbirt School, both of which provide inspiration for her writing. She is bringing both her series to Boldwood in a 13-book contract. They will be publishing several new titles in each series and republishing the backlist, starting in September 2022.

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The Un-Family by Linda Huber

I’m always excited to read releases from Hobeck Books, who have proved themselves to be a hive of talent this year. This book is a thriller which begins fairly ordinarily, then takes many twists and turns as the story unravels through the pages…

Holly is a vet and is married to Dylan (30). They live in a nice house in East Sussex with their dog Fred. The previous month, Dylan was promoted to distribution manager at work and seems especially stressed, so that Holly is worried about the state of their marriage. Dylan has a twin brother called Seth and their mother Elaine (75) is bringing up her granddaughter Megan (16). As well as following events in the present day, there are also chapters set in the past when Elaine was bringing up the twins.

I really enjoyed this book. The story develops quite slowly, but never becomes boring and I found myself always wanting to read on and discover what was going to happen. All of the characters are very realistic and believable. I loved Holly, Elaine and Megan and found the brothers rather strange, but when you read the chapters set in the past, things become a bit clearer.

At a point in the book, things change, something shocking occurs – and then I had to keep reading, without stopping, because it was really exciting and I was desperate to find out what was going to happen. It’s a clever book, it hooks you in and pulls you along for the ride – and what a ride it is!

Highly recommended.


For better, for worse

Wildlife vet Holly’s life seems blissful: husband Dylan is the man of her dreams, she has a rewarding career and a lovely home. And yet, a tiny niggle is growing daily. Dylan is becoming increasingly remote – but why? Holly is determined to mend the fissure in their relationship. But a shocking discovery changes everything…  

Family ties

Then there’s Dylan’s family: his wayward twin Seth and their widowed mother Elaine, who is rather fond of a glass or two of sherry. Nothing in Elaine’s life is easy, bringing up teenage granddaughter Megan while the family grieves the loss of Megan’s mother.

Family lies

A tragic event rocks the foundations of the family, and Holly’s life starts to unravel. Dylan drifts ever further away. Megan is left uncertain and alone, while Seth falls deeper into himself.

The bonds that once bound the family together are breaking. Can they ever be repaired?

Christmas at the Village Sewing Shop by Helen Rolfe

I’ve previously read The Farmhouse of Second Chances and Finding Happiness at Heritage View by Helen Rolfe and really enjoyed them both, so I was keen on read her latest book too – Christmas at the Village Sewing Shop. As sewing is something I love, this gave me an extra reason to read it and who doesn’t love a good Christmas book too?

This book is the story of Loretta (65) and her three daughters Daisy (31), Ginny (37) and Fern (41). The family have owned the Butterbury Sewing Box for over seven decades, it being started by Loretta’s grandmother Eve in 1948. Loretta’s husband (Harry) and her mother (Rebecca) are both deceased, but she still has her father Ivor, who is 88 and a whizz with the knitting needles! We find out early on that Loretta has something she is hiding from her daughters, so we are intrigued to know what is happening.

Daisy helps her mother in the shop, while her other sisters don’t seem interested in the family business and are doing their own thing. Fern is married, has children and works hard as a financial analyst in London. Ginny works in midwifery and likes to travel all over the world. The three sisters rarely meet up these days, but their mother is arranging for them all to come home for Christmas. I loved finding out about each sister, reading the chapters written from their point of view and following their lives.

The novel is set in the village of Butterbury and I love these settings, where you get to know the little shops and the characters who live and work there. I love the quirky independent shops you find here, much nicer than the generic High Streets of cities. I would definitely love to visit Butterbury Sewing Box and join in with its sewing groups, it sounds fabulous!

The book begins in December so has a really festive feeling throughout. Its main theme is family and trying to rebuild one that has scattered somewhat. There is a lot of heart and warmth in the book and Helen Rolfe’s writing style is beautiful. I will definitely be reading more of her work in the future.

Published by Orion Fiction on 27th October 2022.

Available in Paperback, eBook and audio £7.99


Can three sisters stitch their family back together?

Loretta has run the little sewing shop in Butterbury for years, while bringing up her three headstrong daughters. Her own grandmother taught her how to quilt, and Loretta always found time to sit with Daisy, Ginny and Fern, pulling together scraps of material – and their hopes and dreams – into a beautiful whole.

But this Christmas the family is coming apart at the seams: Fern feels like she’s failing at motherhood and marriage; Ginny’s passion for her job as a midwife is fading, Daisy is keeping two very different secrets – and most of all, Loretta seems to be hiding something from her daughters…

As they come together to create a beautiful new festive quilt, memories are stirred, the bonds between sisters healed, and new friendships woven. But when Loretta reveals the real reason she’s gathered them all back to the sewing shop, can the sisters mend the quilt, and their family, in time for Christmas?

Full of kindness, community and festive magic, this is a treat to curl up with this Christmas! Perfect for fans of Cathy Bramley, Jenny Colgan and Ali McNamara

About the author:
Helen Rolfe writes contemporary women’s fiction and enjoys weaving stories about family, friendship, secrets, and community. Characters often face challenges and must fight to overcome them, but above all, Helen’s stories always have a happy ending

To learn more about Helen visit her on Twitter @HJRolfe or at

Snowfall Over Halesmere House by Suzanne Snow

Suzanne Snow is one of the friendliest authors I know online and her Facebook group – Snowed In – is one of my favourite groups. I especially enjoy the Facebook Live interviews she does with fellow authors. I own three of her books, but hadn’t got round to reading them – then I got Snowfall Over Halesmere House and read it in a couple of days!

For starters, the book looks amazing! The cover is beautiful – a house, Christmas trees, a cute dog and lots of glitter! Yes, I know!!! Stunning! But what’s the story like? Well, they say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but you can with this one because the story is also beautiful, festive, glittery, based in a big house – and with a dog called Primrose in it!

The star of the novel is Ella Grant and we meet her in November, when she has just arrived at the impressive Halesmere House in Cumbria to begin her new job there. Her task is to relaunch the house as a holiday home from January. Straight away, she meets Noelle Bourdon (the French owner of the house) and her grandchildren Lily (6) and Arlo (4), who Ella will be helping look after. She then meets Max Bentley, Noelle’s son, who seems rather obnoxious. After that meeting, Ella isn’t even sure there’s a job for her anymore!

I was interested in the story straight away. Ella is a character I wanted to get to know and I was looking forward to finding out more about her throughout the book. All the characters just jump out of the page, they’re so authentic. Lily and Arlo are adorable, it’s often hard to get kids right in fiction, but these are perfectly done. Lily is often hilarious, with the things she says! I also loved Primrose the naughty, but adorable, dog! The relationships between Max and his mother, and Max and his children, are also interesting and he is trying so hard at being a single dad and juggling his work with his family commitments.

As with all good romance books, there are plenty of other topics covered. Both Ella and Max are dealing with grief and trying to move on with their lives following a tragedy. There are some brilliantly funny moments (especially with the children) and many serious moments too. Suzanne Snow has a great writing style that immediately draws you into the story and wanting to keep reading, to find out what the pages have in store for the cast of characters within them. Odd job man Stan was another of my favourites.

I liked the community setting of the book. Although a lot of the story is based at Halesmere House itself, we find out about the village, its community shop, pub, pretty cottages and those that live and work there. It’s a really idyllic setting and the Lake District is a beautiful part of the country. I loved getting to know the other characters there including Rowan and Marta. I do enjoy these kinds of books where the reader feels they are living there too and making friends with all the characters.

I enjoy a good Christmas book and reading this novel in November was great, as it really got me excited about the approaching festive season. I loved the way that Halesmere House was decorated for Christmas and all the events going on, like the Artisan Christmas Open Day.

I find in some romance novels that the developing relationship can seem slightly formulaic, as if the author thinks “Ooh this is going too well, I need to put in an obstacle here” and I understand why this is done, but I occasionally find it annoying. Suzanne Snow, however, lets the romance develop in a way that feels very natural. We know the obstacles are there, but they’re present from the start, not thrown in partway through. I loved how the characters form a friendship which develops slowly, as they realise how much they have in common. This is very believable and beautifully done.

As you can probably tell from my review, I absolutely loved this book and highly recommend it.


Welcome to Halesmere House, where romance might be just around the corner…

Ella is a successful chef who is looking for a temporary change of pace so she can figure out her next career steps. She’s been living in the past for so many years, it’s time she started living for herself. Luckily, Halesmere House in the Lake District is in need of a manager to kick-start its artists’ residence and Ella can’t wait to start.

There she meets single dad Max, the son of her eccentric new boss. He’s rattled by her presence and is convinced that Ella’s passing involvement in Halesmere will only prove painful to his children, who are already growing attached to the fun and lovely manager.

It isn’t long before Ella realises she’s falling in love with more than Halesmere and its community. But if she stays, is she really choosing a career for herself, or yet again for someone else?

A tender and uplifting Christmas romance for fans of Heidi Swain, Karen Swan and Sue Moorcroft.

You Don’t Know What War Is by Yeva Skalietska

Everyone has been moved by this year’s events in Ukraine. I personally have friends over there – one who I haven’t heard from for months now – and we have all seen the news reports of the Russians bombing Ukraine, President Zelensky being defiant against Putin’s threats. But this book – You Don’t Know What War Is – gives us another perspective, as twelve-year-old Yeva Skalietska shares her thoughts with us. The diary she kept from February to May 2022 follow events we watched in the News, but this is a first-hand account from a child who was there.

For starters, it’s a beautifully produced and presented book. The cover is blue and yellow – Ukraine’s national colours – with the country’s famous sunflowers on there. There are flaps at the front and back of the book, which can be used as bookmarks while you are reading. The foreword is written by the famous author Michael Morpurgo and there’s a map of Kharkiv (Yeva’s home city). The text is presented alongside news headlines, reproductions of text messages and photos from Yeva’s life.

The diary begins on February 14th – Yeva’s 12th birthday. Life is normal, she goes to school, her friends say ‘Happy birthday!’ to her and she is looking forward to her party at the local bowling alley. She lives with her Granny Iryna and they have a family birthday tea with other relatives. She’s like many other kids her age all over the world – she likes painting, plays the piano and is learning English. Kharkiv sounds amazing with its zoo, dolphinarium, gardens and the famous Gorky Park – a city full of culture, somewhere I would have loved to visit…

Then on February 24th, everything changes.

Yeva writes “I’ve grown up hearing about war, but I’ve never been in one. I was terrified.”

For quite a short book (240 pages), it is a powerful read. I follow quite a few Ukrainians on Twitter who tweet about their daily life in the war, but reading things from the perspective of Yeva who is just twelve, it really feels so evil that a young girl’s life is ruined by this political act. You can see the mental strain she is under, as she suddenly fears for her life. Her home no longer feels safe, but then, where is safe now?

Despite the tragedy behind the book, Yeva’s story isn’t all negative. I love the way she communicates with her classmates on their phones, you can see how they are trying to keep each other’s spirits up amongst all the terror and uncertainty. They chat about what is happening where they are and as the days continue, they update each other on where they flee to, if they leave Kharkiv. (At the end of the book, some of her friends write updates on their situations.) Although she’s only a child, Yeva tries to see the positives, enjoying some sunshine or telling people not to despair. The resilience shown here is one we have seen from many Ukrainians over the past nine months.

This is an important book and I highly recommend it.


*Featured on This Morning, Steph’s Packed Lunch, Radio 4: Today and Channel 4 News*

Everyone knows the word ‘war’. But very few understand what it truly means. When you find you have to face it, you feel totally lost, walled in by fright and despair. Until you’ve been there, you don’t know what war is.

This is the gripping and moving diary of young Ukrainian refugee Yeva Skalietska. It follows twelve days in Ukraine that changed 12-year-old Yeva’s life forever. She was woken in the early hours to the terrifying sounds of shelling. Russia had invaded Ukraine, and her beloved Kharkiv home was no longer the safe haven it should have been. It was while she was forced to seek shelter in a damp, cramped basement that Yeva decided to write down her story. And it is a story the world needs to hear.

Yeva captured the nation’s heart when she was featured on Channel 4 News with her granny as they fled Ukraine for Dublin. In You Don’t Know What War Is, Yeva records what is happening hour-by-hour as she seeks safety and travels from Kharkiv to Dublin. Each eye-opening diary entry is supplemented by personal photographs, excerpts of messages between Yeva and her friends and daily headlines from around the world, while three beautifully detailed maps (by Kharkiv-native Olga Shtonda) help the reader track Yeva and her granny’s journey. You Don’t Know What War Is is a powerful insight into what conflict is like through the eyes of a child and an essential read for adults and older children alike.

Published in association with the UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, with a foreword by Michael Morpurgo.
‘Everyone, absolutely everyone, should read it. You will love Yeva.’ Christy Lefteri, No.1 international bestselling author of The Beekeeper of Aleppo
‘Yeva speaks a truth all of us must listen to’ Michael Morpurgo, award-winning author of War Horse
‘Exhilarating, shattering, heartbreaking, brilliant’ Roddy Doyle, Booker Prize-winning author
‘The most important story of our times’ Viv Groskop, podcaster and writer
‘A herstory of Ukraine’ Olia Hercules, Ukrainian chef and food writer