DIANA’S JULY REVIEW ~ An Italian Holiday by Maeve Haran

DIANA’S JULY REVIEW ~ An Italian Holiday by Maeve Haran

I love to pick up the occasional light romance women’s fiction from time to time and this one caught my eye in Waterstones a month ago. Having visited this area in Italy it was easy to imagine the drama of four vastly different women who are invited to spend the summer at an Italian Villa to escape from a variety of life’s trails back in the UK.

Clashes in personality led to healing heart to hearts which in turn evolved to a bonding of kindred spirits as finally a common goal draws them together. All of this with the back drop of the Italian sea and sunshine, with lemon trees adding flavour and romance.

I enjoyed this book immensely. The characters were well formed and quirky as they rubbed shoulders with each other.  The romances plausible and the resolution left you with a feeling that all’s right with the world. What more can you ask of a summer read, either while you are away or stuck back in the rain in the UK dreaming of sunshine!

DIANA’S JUNE REVIEW ~ The Keeper of the Faith by Nigel Lesmoir-Gordon

A brilliant book!

I did not expect to enjoy this book, being set initially in the Vietnam War, but Tristram, The Earl of Oundle, drew me into the story and I hope that I learnt a little more of that period of history too. This very English gent might appear out of place in command of his platoon in Vietnam in 1968, but he gains the respect and friendship of those under his command. The trials they share and the responsibility he feels for their dire circumstances, lives with him, even when he returns to the UK to train to be a Benedictine Monk.

This novel has such clever contrasts – war, religion, philosophy and even love as Tristram tries to grapple with finding meaning to life after witnessing such atrocities. Despite my initial misgivings I highly recommend this novel for women readers as well as for men. (I’m sorry if I sound sexist here) The story woven for us is realistic, well written and gripping to the end. I believe that The Keeper of the Faith is Nigel Lesmoir-Gordon’s most ambitious but best novel yet. I wish him every success with it.

DIANA’S MAY REVIEW ~ Purged by Peter Laws

‘Purged’ is a beautifully crafted crime novel with characters who you immediately feel empathy towards and those who raise suspicion early on. Cleverly, it is the murderer who introduces the novel, under the cloak of the pronoun ‘He.’ Well, that lets off half of the population from suspicion!

Once an ordained minister, in his spare Professor Matt Hunter aids the police in solving religious related crimes. His family arrive in a surreal Christian community which sounds more American than middle England. With crosses everywhere and smiling people, the doubt felt by the Hunter family levels the ‘too good to be true’ atmosphere, as his wife wishes to be accepted for a contract as an architect for the community’s church. As women begin to disappear both the police and Matt begin to ask questions. The idyllic spot where the family are staying becomes spooky and at times an air of danger overrides…

The novel kept me guessing until the end and lived with me, as many good books do, for many days after I’d finished it. Peter Laws obviously knows this world of faith very well but his ability to see both sides and courage to question the very foundation of his faith was refreshing as well as challenging.

DIANA’S APRIL REVIEW ~ The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Maybe I’m one of the last people to read this magical little book. If you read my series about allegories on my other blog http://www.selectionsofreflections.wordpress.com you will know that I adore stories with a meaning, especially if they are in the form of a pilgrimage ~ The Alchemist ticks all of these boxes for me.

I was with Santiago all the way as he gave up his relatively successful life as a shepherd in search of treasure. His travels through North Africa, overcoming danger, befriending enemies, gaining much and then losing it once more was a gripping tale and I felt each of his highs and lows as personal pain and pleasure.

His lesson ~ listening to your heart. It spoke to me at a very special time in my life and, as many readers have said on finishing this little tome, my world will never be quite the same again.

DIANA’S MARCH REVIEW ~ Wildflower Hill by Kimberley Freeman

Emma’s world fell apart. She breaks up with a long term boyfriends and then has an accident, leaving her career as a successful ballet dancer in jeopardy.

Beattie, Emma’s grandmother, becomes pregnant in the 1930’s and so she runs away to Australia with her married lover and settles in Tasmania. It is a harrowing life which she turns around in the most inventive and unexpected way. Times were not always easy though, with a hidden past and secrets which she shared with no-one.

As Emma is bequeathed Beattie’s farmhouse she begins to heal and unravels the truth about her grandmother.

A gripping tale ~ an epic with everything, love, tragedy, travel into the unknown ~ a dram spanning generations. I can recommend this book.

DIANA’S FEBRUARY REVIEW ~ An Accidental Murder by J New

I must admit that I didn’t realise this novel involved the supernatural and was tempted to put it down, but I’m really glad I didn’t. I really enjoyed it. (My latest work  involves a kind of time travel and so, although I had a momentary pause, I continued to read on.)
The apparitions played their part in solving this unusual mystery. Ella was a warm character who discovered The Yellow Cottage, a memory from happy family holidays. As she unpacked strange things began to happen. The cottage itself was quirky, still holding much content and style from its previous occupants.
The unfortunate ‘so called’ fatal accidents of several children in care aroused Ella’s suspicion and her brother and sister-in-law and also Uncle Albert, a police commissioner became involved in solving what turned out to be several murders.
A clever plot which I thoroughly enjoyed and will look out for the next in the series, where I also hope to read more about the island on which the cottage stands.

A great read!


Reading The White Camellia reminded me why I like historical novels and being a lover of Daphne du Maurier and fond of Cornwall too, this was the perfect read for me. Like good historical fiction Juliet Greenwood invents the setting of The Camellia Tea Rooms and also The Suffrage League of Artists and Journalists following extensive research. They were truly believable, giving us a distinctive flavour of the tumultuous times in which the novel was set. Both Sybil and Bea were extremely strong and likeable protagonists. The former held dark secrets, although somehow I did not doubt her genuine belief in goodness and righting wrongs, unlike her brother who continued to seek revenge and could never forgive. The mystery of lesser characters such as Lillian added intrigue. The reader was soon aware that there were connections deep beneath the surface, but it was only in the final chapters that the truth was revealed, as was the true nature of all concerned.

A gripping tale of women fighting for what they believed in, caring for the unloved and, following success, returning the complement to humanity in kind. A great read. I enjoyed every minute.