Synopsis

1910 – A compelling tale of female empowerment in Bath’s leading department store. Perfect for the fans of the TV series Mr Selfridge and The Paradise.

Elizabeth Pennington should be the rightful heir of Bath’s premier department store through her enterprising schemes and dogged hard work. Her father, Edward Pennington, believes his daughter lacks the business acumen to run his empire and is resolute a man will succeed him.

Determined to break from her father’s iron-clad hold and prove she is worthy of inheriting the store, Elizabeth forms an unlikely alliance with ambitious and charismatic master glove-maker Joseph Carter. United they forge forward to bring Pennington’s into a new decade, embracing woman’s equality and progression whilst trying not to mix business and pleasure.

Can this dream team thwart Edward Pennington’s plans for the store? Or will Edward prove himself an unshakeable force who will ultimately ruin both Elizabeth and Joseph?

My review

Elizabeth, our heroine, is ahead of her time in her ambition for the family department store, but her father doesn’t share her plans. He’s the sort of domineering, intolerant and narrow-minded man we associate with the Victorian era. In contrast, Joseph, the glove-maker, is far more modern in his views and is prepared to listen to and consider what women have to say. His wife Lillian, tragically murdered, was a proactive woman, like Elizabeth, and so he values women for their intelligence and insight, and not just their looks. He shares Elizabeth’s vision for catering to women customers considerably more. The two work well together, and inevitably attraction follows. But there are other impediments besides Edward Pennington: class conventions, political issues and personal agendas are there too.  As well as struggling to be mistress of Pennington’s store, Elizabeth also struggles to be mistress of her own fate.

Elizabeth has built a shell around herself to protect herself from her father’s constant belittlement. She thus appears somewhat stiff and distant at first, but as we get to know her better as the book progresses we see her hidden side. She’s sensitive and motivated, very much her lively mother’s daughter. Or at least her mother was lively until Edward finally stifled her joie de vivre. Elizabeth fortunately seems to be made of sterner stuff and we have faith that she’ll escape from her father’s shadow.

I especially liked the atmosphere created in the book. In scenes with Edward there’s oppressiveness and stuffiness, but Elizabeth always seems to bring light and hope. Joseph carries sadness with him, but a growing air of optimism. Pennington’s, brightly lit, shines out like a beacon beckoning to the future, like Elizabeth herself.

The author recreates an exciting time in history in her novel and furnishes it with fascinating, contrasting characters and a clever plot. This makes for very enjoyable reading.

The book is beautifully presented with an eye-catching cover. However, my one criticism of this book is in relation to the cover. It would look even better without the ‘Welcome to Bath’s finest department store’ on the right hand side. To me it is a completely unnecessary addition, and it detracts from  the symmetry and perspective. But maybe that’s just me – I admit I have a bit of a bee in my bonnet about slogans plastered on covers!

Super book, thoroughly enjoyable and one to add to your ‘to be read’ list.

Purchase Links

Amazon UK: http://amzn.eu/2SvRcqp

Amazon US: http://a.co/bYr2KHM

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-mistress-of-penningtons-rachel-brimble/1128920728?ean=9781788546508

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/gb/en/ebook/the-mistress-of-pennington-s

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Rachel_Brimble_The_Mistress_of_Pennington_s?id=dIFSDwAAQBAJ

Author Bio

Rachel lives with her husband and two teenage daughters in a small town near Bath in the UK. Since 2007, she has had several novels published by small US presses, eight books published by Harlequin Superromance (Templeton Cove Stories) and four Victorian romances with eKensington/Lyrical.

In January 2018, she signed a four-book deal with Aria Fiction for a brand new Edwardian series set in Bath’s finest department store. The first book, The Mistress of Pennington’s, released July 2018.

Rachel is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association and Romance Writers of America, and was selected to mentor the Superromance finalist of So You Think You Can Write 2014 contest. When she isn’t writing, you’ll find Rachel with her head in a book or walking the beautiful English countryside with her family. Her dream place to live is Bourton-on-the-Water in South West England.

Social Media Links

Website

Blog

Twitter

Facebook

Facebook Street Team – Rachel’s Readers

Amazon Author Page:

https://www.amazon.com/Rachel-Brimble/e/B007829ZRM/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1490948101&sr=8-1

Goodreads:

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1806411.Rachel_Brimble

Giveaway to win £20 / $20 Amazon Gift Card (Open Internationally)

*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time I will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/33c69494121/

Synopsis

Life as a duchess… or something much more dangerous…?

This is book 1 of The King’s Elite series.

Constantly told her beauty and charm is all she has to offer, Lady Clarissa is intent on marrying a duke. And intriguing spy Sebastian Leatham will help her! Only first she’ll assist him with his new assignment of playing the part of confident aristocrat Lord Millcroft.

However, Sebastian awakens a burning desire within Clarissa which leaves her questioning whether becoming a duchess is what she truly longs for…

 

My review

Virginia Heath’s books always sparkle with humour and human foibles. Her characters are so very real. There’s a danger with historical fiction, where there’s the need to recreate a previous period of time, to present us with stiff caricatures who speak awkwardly and act unnaturally. None of that in this author’s splendid books and ‘The Mysterious Lord Millcroft’ is no exception. We meet recognisable human beings who, whilst they still face certain social constraints, manage to reveal their full, rounded personalities to us. They’re interesting for us to be with, and they tease and irritate each other just like any group of people will do.

The story is clever and well told. Sebastian, the bastard son of a duke, is working with an elite team which includes characters from others of Virginia Heath’s wonderful novels, to capture a group of smugglers. These have leaders and friends in high places, and in order to track them down Seb goes ‘undercover’ into the top echelon of society as Lord Millcroft. The fiancé of a woman he has recently come to admire, the “incomparable” Lady Clarissa Beaumont, is one of the people he’s investigating, and another of the villains has even closer connections to Seb. Can he complete this task, at all costs? His last mission had him shot while defending a young woman, and he’s only just recovered from that.

Seb is handsome and brave, the perfect hero you’d think. However, he’s desperately shy, socially awkward and prone to being snappy. Clarissa is headstrong and intelligent but somewhat obsessively determined to marry a duke, no matter how miserable that may make her. She may give the impression of being arch and dignified, but she’s not above thoroughly enjoying the sight of a semi-naked man when she sees one! It’s this sort of touch that makes these characters so human and so likeable. Even the rogues have their charms.

So do escape for a while into Regency England in this lively and intriguing novel. You’ll enjoy every minute.

 

Purchase Link – myBook.to/KingsElite1

Author Bio

Virginia Heath lives on the outskirts of London with her understanding husband and two, less understanding, teenagers. After spending years teaching history,she decided to follow her dream of writing for Harlequin. Now she spends her days happily writing regency romances, creating heroes that she falls in love with and heroines who inspire her. When she isn’t doing that, Virginia likes to travel to far off places, shop for things that she doesn’t need or read romances written by other people.

Social Media Links –

https://www.facebook.com/virginiaheathauthor/

https://twitter.com/VirginiaHeath_

https://www.virginiaheathromance.com/

 

And hooray, a competition!

Giveaway – Win 3 x E-copies of The Mysterious Lord Millcroft (Open Internationally)

*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time I will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

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Synopsis

Genre: Sweet romance/cosy mystery

Release Date: 1 February 2018

Publisher: Aria Fiction (Head of Zeus)

Packed full of French flavour and idyllic settings this is a romantic, heart-warming and unputdownable new novel about life and love, perfect for anyone who loves Milly Johnson, Lucy Diamond and Debbie Johnson.

Suddenly unemployed and single, Anna escapes to her parents’ beautiful house in France for a much-needed recharge – and to work out what she wants to do next with her life now her carefully mapped out plan has gone out the window.

Anna gives herself 6 months to recuperate, all the while helping renovate her parents’ adjoining gites into picturesque B&Bs. But working alongside the ruggedly handsome Sam on the renovation project, she didn’t expect for life to take an unexpected, if not unwelcome, twist…

 

 

My review

Everything about this book makes it a perfect summer read from its pretty, perky cover to its happy ever after ending.

We follow Anna from England, where she ends her relationship and job on the same day, to France where she seeks sanctuary with her parents who are working together contentedly to build themselves a new life abroad. Anna allows herself time to mend and re-prioritise her own life. She’s in for some surprising and unforeseen changes!

Back in England Anna worked alongside Karl in a strained atmosphere where it’s all about getting the right results, but in France she works alongside Sam companionably. She made what Karl called an ‘unbeatable’ team, but also an unhappy one. In England, Anna’s experience was that language deceived. People said what they didn’t mean. Karl said he loved Anna, but he didn’t mean it. He also lied when challenged over his relationship with her. In France, she finds that life is less about appearances and impressing others. People are true to their feelings and to their word. Can Anna learn to be true to herself?

The book is divided into months with further chirpily named subdivisions – for example, New Day, New Me and Getting Down and Dirty. The use of the present tense makes the writing crisp and immediate, and the author’s style is flowing and easy to read. I especially love how the author’s own cat Ziggy stars in the story!

Something that surprised me is that, as far as I can make out from her bio, the author’s never lived in France, although she’s obviously visited. She seems to have soaked up the French rural atmosphere so easily and in such detail I was sure she must have spent a lifetime there.

Don’t hesitate to treat yourself to this lovely novel. It will transport you to France in an instant, and introduce you to some fascinating characters and places, and warm the cockles of  your heart at the same time. 

 

Excerpt

The L Word

Two weeks today will be the first anniversary of our first real date. Being wined and dined in a chic little French restaurant was a gigantic step forward; it signalled the beginning of a new era in my relationship with Karl. Even though at least half of the meal was spent talking about work, his intentions were clear – we were no longer simply colleagues and romance was in the air.

Since then, Karl must have told me that he loves me more than a thousand times. You might think I’m exaggerating, but I can assure you that’s not the case. He usually manages to slip it into the conversation at least three times a day. The first time he said the L word to me, it slid off his tongue so easily I could almost have missed it. It wasn’t a staring into each other’s eyes moment of discovery, just a casual ‘love you, babe’.

As the months rolled by, I pushed aside my growing fear that it was only a word to him. Because it means so much more to me, I freeze whenever he tacks it onto a sentence.

And, yes, I’m very aware that my air of disapproval does make me sound ungrateful and undeserving. But it’s all about self-preservation, you see. I’ll never utter that word again until I’m one hundred per cent certain that the man I’m saying it to believes I’m their soul mate too – the perfect fit.

The last time I uttered the L word, was six years ago. It was to a guy I’d known since childhood and the man I genuinely believed I would marry when the time was right. He was handsome in a rugged way, fired up with ambition and exciting to be around. Sadly, everyone we knew thought we were the perfect couple too, except the guy in question, as it turned out…

 

BUY LINK

http://smarturl.it/TheFrenchAdventure

 

GOODREADS

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ABOUT LUCY COLEMAN

Lucy Coleman always knew that one day she would write, but first life took her on a wonderful journey of self-discovery for which she is very grateful.

Family life and two very diverse careers later she now spends most days glued to a keyboard, which she refers to as her personal quality time.

‘It’s only when you know who you are that you truly understand what makes you happy – and writing about love, life and relationships makes me leap out of bed every morning!’

If she isn’t online she’s either playing with the kids, whose imaginations seem to know no bounds, or painting something. As a serial house mover together with her lovely husband, there is always a new challenge to keep her occupied!

Lucy also writes under the name Linn B. Halton.

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/LinnBHaltonAuthor/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LucyColemanauth

Goodreads Author Page: http://ow.ly/mk3H30atV5h

Website:  http://linnbhalton.co.uk/

 

And look, there’s a competition!

Enter here:

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Books Are Cool continues in its current historical fiction mood with a review today of A Warriner To Seduce Her by Virginia Heath. We’re joining in the big launch party for this excellent book.

The title might suggest a bodice-ripper awaits us, and while our hero Jake Warriner is a self-confessed rake this book is far more sophisticated that its name might imply.

For reasons you’ll have to discover for yourselves in the book, Jake is intent on seducing a certain young lady, namely the niece of an influential nobleman, Sir Crispin Rowley. This niece, Felicity  ‘Fliss’ Blunt, at her uncle’s invitation is having her season in London. But she’d really rather not. This down-to-earth northern lass does not want to be spend time trussed up in corsets and ridiculous dresses and being flirted with. And she may be short sighted but she quickly sees through Jakes attempts to win her heart.

Or she thinks she does, and she’s very unimpressed with her handsome would-be suitor. She doesn’t realise that he has genuinely fallen for her. Things are about to get very complicated.

The story proceeds from here with lots of exciting action, witty exchanges. There’s emotion, demons to face, thrills, romance and a clever plot. There is a fine cast of fascinating characters, all rounded and intriguing.  

This is a very enjoyable read. It’s the fourth book in the Warriner series but works well as a standalone, and if you haven’t read the preceding books then you will certainly want to after reading this one.

 

Synopsis

A sensible schoolmistress… Awakened by the notorious rake!

In this The Wild Warriners story, schoolmistress Felicity Blunt feels old beyond her years?and desperately dull. Meeting confirmed rake Jacob Warriner brings her gloriously alive, and yet no matter his allure she must remain immune to his obvious charms and unashamed flirtation. But is Jacob merely a mischievous scoundrel? Or is there much more to this Warriner than meets the eye…?

Purchasehttp://www.myBook.to/Warriner4

 

Author Bio 

When Virginia Heath was a little girl it took her ages to fall asleep, so she made up stories in her head to help pass the time while she was staring at the ceiling. As she got older, the stories became more complicated, sometimes taking weeks to get to the happy ending. Then one day, she decided to embrace the insomnia and start writing them down. Fortunately, the lovely people at Harlequin Mills & Boon took pity on her and decided to publish her romances, but it still takes her forever to fall asleep.

Social Media Links –

https://www.facebook.com/virginiaheathauthor/

https://twitter.com/VirginiaHeath_

https://www.virginiaheathromance.com/

 

Giveaway – Win 3 x E-copies of A Warriner to Seduce Her (Open Internationally)

*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time I will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

 

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This is an office-based cozy mystery, which, it has to be said, makes a welcome change from the plethora of bakery-based ones! It’s set in Bostoff Securities where Janet Maple, our heroine, has just been given a job by long-time but rather controlling friend Lisa. Having worked in the DA’s office, Janet has a nose for intrigue and cover-ups. So she quickly becomes alarmed when she notices that things, such as the complicated company structures,  don’t seem to add up and starts to do a bit of digging. Janet finds herself in the awkward situation of suspecting her friend and boss guilty of wrong-doing. She’s not the only one. Her apparently nerdy work colleague Dean (the alias for Dennis Walker, an undercover agent) is on the case too and the pair find themselves working together, as well as becoming increasingly attracted to each other.

The author has a very clear, concise, polished style that makes for enjoyable reading. The characters are nicely rounded  and I suspect the major ones will develop further as the series progresses. The plot is clever and it’s interesting to get an insight into how a securities firm works. All in all, a different and enjoyable cozy, although it has to be said that Baxter the dog could do with being let out a lot more often!

I received a free copy of this book from the author, but this is a voluntary review.

Now that my own Christmassy romcom Fa-La-Llama-La, is published, it’s time to take a look at some of the opposition. There are a lot of other festive romcoms to choose from, many set in guesthouses, cafés or other eateries, so I think I’ll start with some of them. Today’s is set in a café in Cornwall.

 
Cornish Cafe Christmas

Christmas at the Cornish Café by Philippa Ashley is the second in a planned trilogy. I hadn’t read the first book,  Summer at the Cornish Café, so perhaps this was the reason I found it rather slow and uncertain to start with. However, the reader can soon work out roughly what has gone before, but I imagine there will be added depth if you come to this book from the first one. It may also make the opening chapter or so less slow.

There is a plethora of books out at the moment about little teashops or cafés or guesthouses by the coast, and many are romanticised and twee. So it was a huge relief to find that this one gives a realistic portrayal of working in the hospitality trade – difficult customers, tight deadlines, the sheer volume of work involved.

That’s true of this whole book. It has its light-hearted, rosy-glow side but also has its feet firmly in reality, which, as we know, is far less than perfect. At times I couldn’t quite marry the two as I feel the author’s strength is more with the in-your-face aspect. The idealised, picture-perfect element occasionally didn’t quite fit in.

Overall the book is enjoyable. Our main characters, Demi and Cal, are rounded and flawed and believable. We care what happens to them, and in this story we see Demi’s café dream become reality and both she and Cal develop as the story unfolds. They both realise what is important to them, and both have to deal with difficult aspects of their past. Demi in particular becomes more confident and courageous. And since this is Christmas, the time for families and forgiveness, we see reconciliations and new starts.

The setting is wonderful. The author describes the scenery and local life in St Trenyan in exquisite detail and it’s very atmospheric. There are also some fascinating minor characters, including Kit Bannen who is mysterious and turns out to be something of a catalyst.

I was attracted to this book because of the Christmassy element, and that didn’t disappoint at all. The story has all the festive, feel-good tingles you expect from a seasonal novel.

Will I be reading the next book in the trilogy? I don’t know. I came to admire the characters rather than fall in love with them, and I also rather liked the ending of this book so I don’t know if I want to find out if that’s spoiled!

Cornwall is the setting for another Christmas story, A Cornish Christmas>em>, which I’m actually not tempted to read and review from its description, and I don’t think I’ll be alone in thinking that the covers of these two books are very similar – old cottage, snow, night sky, italic typeface.. Always good to have a distinctive cover.

 
Cornish Christmas

CanterOfTheHeartFinal2A Canter of the Heart by E E West describes itself as “a romance that will speak… to your heart” … and you know what, it really does!

Twenty-year-old para-equestrian Eleanor lives on her parents’ farm in Boyanup and fills her time with schoolwork and riding, and girls’ outings with Annette and Carol. Eleanor is wonderfully positive and fun, the sort of person you’d love to have as your best friend. So it’s no surprise that American naval flight offer David is smitten when he bumps into her at a nightclub. They have just two days together in Australia before David has to go back to his ship. They’re determined that their relationship will last but everything seems to be forcing them apart – spiteful ex-girlfriends, missed phone calls, delayed letters, the prejudice Eleanor perpetually faces from certain qualities, even war. But the prospect of thirty-four magical days in America together keeps them going. Can their love last? Much as Eleanor adores her horses and her riding, it’s David she now needs to make her life complete.

The story introduces us to two fascinating central characters. It takes us from Australia to America and back, with a quick visit to Singapore. The author captures the settings of each place beautifully and you think you’re there too. But what E E West portrays best of all is human emotion. Both Eleanor and David are on emotional rollercoasters after they meet, and we share their love for each other, their longing, their frustration, their irritation, but most of all, their irrepressible optimism and hope for the future.

This is a wonderful story that warms as well as speaks to your heart.  And the good news is that this is the first in a trilogy: The Equestrian and the Aviator. So more great writing to come from this talented author.

Visit E E West’s website: www.eewest.com

Buy the book on Amazon here.

Green Eyed Temptation (Halos and Horns) by Lori Leger is a modern romance with a lot of punchiness to it. It may be a classic love triangle, here one girl, Angelique Baptiste who is taking a break from bedding guys while she tries to sort her life out, and two men, both tough and attractive. There’s police colleague Mike Harper and ex-Seal Liam Nash, the latter with a whole host of skeletons in his cupboard that he’s finally laid to rest. However, he ran out on Angelique a year ago and is one of the reasons she’s had to get counselling from a therapist and take drastic measures to get her emotional life back on track. A gritty, heart-rending subplot make this book much more than a simple romance. There are guts to this story and it quickly becomes absorbing.

The book is a spin-off from the author’s hugely successful ‘La Fleur de Love’ series and uses characters who have appeared in previous stories. This is a strategy Lori Leger uses to great effect as it is intriguing for readers. It also lends a sense of familiarity as you read. There are plenty of interesting secondary characters, such as Tanner Collins, whom you hope you’ll come across again. And soon. The author’s style is conversational and easy, with a humorous touch. For example, she gives us two endings – a sweet one, and a decidedly hotter one too! She creates sensual situations as skilfully as she builds tension and intrigue and is a polished, accomplished author.

Out of the Ashes by Lori Dillon is a wonderful combination of romance and history with a dash of the paranormal for good measure. It’s one of those books you can’t put down. It’s a simple yet clever story of love through time. Due to Marsha and Hershel, two bungling yet likeable angels who enjoy bingo, Male 2028 and Female 5293 don’t get to enjoy the loving life together they’re meant to have. Their first reincarnations are as Dacian the gladiator and Sabina the well-born politician’s niece in Pompeii in AD79. Ironically the erupting volcano both frees the pair of them from their restricted lifestyles, yet entombs them in each other’s arms. Nothing daunted,  the angels try again but there are other slip-ups. They have a final chance in war torn Italy in 1943 with Serafina the archaeologist, and David Corbin, working for the Allies. Surely they’ll get it right this time, won’t they? Shadows of the past play a helping hand.

This is a delightfully fresh yet poignant tale. The characters are so real and alive. Nothing seems contrived. The action unfolds at a good pace, with pauses at the sadder moments. Division becomes a strong motif in the book. People are divided from each other by social class, nationality, circumstance and politics. The world is divided by wars. Yet there is a way the divisions can be overcome, but it’s not easy, even if Senior Guardian Angel Smithers is on the case!

A Secure Heart by Charity Parkerson is a clever and entertaining series of four interwoven romantic stories. Not only does the Smith Security Services team of Shannon Smith, and twins Bob and Weave Sparks feature in each of the four vignettes, but the other characters that appear are connected in various ways. Gracie and Jacob are brother and sister, but they bump into Flower and Genie and Kera along the way. You look into different people’s lives on the way and see how they interconnect and influence each other. Each story is original, touching, funny, sexy and absorbing. You might think you can predict where it’s headed, but there’s always another twist waiting around the corner. The characters are complex and strong, yet also comfortingly flawed and human.

Flowers, Chocolate, Wishes and Sparks, the four stories in this book, might appear a little glib from their titles at first glance but touch very deep emotions and issues – Can you ditch a facade you’ve worn for years? What happens when two close friends and colleagues love the same woman? Can a relationship survive when a job separates you for long periods? Each one works brilliantly well and there is no drop in quality in the writing. Parkerson creates all her characters with equal care and affection and there is clearly no end to her imagination in the settings and situations they find themselves in. Sparks fly and wishes are fulfilled in this book which is like a bouquet of flowers with a few thorns included,  or a box of sweet and sour chocolates!