Blog-Tour: The Big Dreams Beach Hotel by Lilly Bartlett

Today is my stop on the Blog-Tour for The Big Dreams Beach Hotel by Lilly Bartlett. I am delighted to introduce you to this fun summer read. Prepare to be captivated by the eccentric characters and feisty main character with quite a few trust issues. Read Chapter 1 right here, and of course to top off this brilliant post you can also read my review at the very bottom.

About the Author

Lilly Bartlett’s cosy romcoms are full of warmth, quirky characters and guaranteed happily-ever-afters.

Lilly is the pen-name of Sunday Times and USA Today best-selling author, Michele Gorman, who writes best friend-girl power comedies under her own name.

To connect with Lilly Bartlett aka Michele Gorman go to:

www.michelegorman.co.uk

Blog: michelegormanwriter.blogspot.com

Instagram: @michelegormanuk

Twitter: Follow @MicheleGormanUK and @HarperImpulse

Facebook: www.facebook.com/MicheleGormanBooks

Buy The Big Dreams Beach Hotel

About the book

Three years after ditching her career in New York City, Rosie never thought she’d still be managing the quaint faded Victorian hotel in her seaside hometown.

What’s worse, the hotel’s new owners are turning it into a copy of their Florida properties. Flamingos and all. Cultures are clashing and the hotel’s residents stand in the way of the developers’ plans. The hotel is both their home and their family.

That’s going to make Rory’s job difficult when he arrives to enforce the changes. And Rosie isn’t exactly on his side, even though it’s the chance to finally restart her career. Rory might be charming, but he’s still there to evict her friends.

How can she follow her dreams if it means ending everyone else’s?

Extract from The Big Dreams Beach Hotel:

Chapter 1

New York is where I fell head over heels for a bloke named Chuck. I know: Chuck. But don’t judge him just because he sounds like he should be sipping ice-cream floats at the drive-in or starring in the homecoming football game. Rah rah, sis boom bah, yay, Chuck!

Believe me, I didn’t plan for a Chuck in my life. But that’s how it happens, isn’t it? One minute you’ve got plans for your career and a future that doesn’t involve the inconvenience of being in love, and the next you’re floating around in full dozy-mare mode.

I won’t lie to you. When Chuck walked into our hotel reception one afternoon in late October, it wasn’t love at first sight. It was lust.

Be still, my fluttering nethers.

Talk about unprofessional. I could hardly focus on what he was saying. Something about organising Christmas parties.

‘To be honest, I don’t really know what I’m doing,’ he confided as he leaned against the reception desk. His face was uncomfortably close to mine, but by then I’d lived in New York for eighteen months. I was used to American space invaders. They’re not being rude, just friendly. And Chuck was definitely friendly.

‘I only started my job about a month ago,’ he told me. ‘It’s my first big assignment, so I really can’t fuck it up. Sorry, I mean mess it up.’ His blue (so dark blue) eyes bore into mine. ‘I’m hoping someone here can help me.’

It took all my willpower not to spring over the desk to his aid. Not that I’m at all athletic. I’d probably have torn my dress, climbed awkwardly over and landed face-first at his feet.

Keep him talking, I thought, so that I could keep staring. He looked quintessentially American, with his square jawline and big straight teeth and air of confidence, even though he’d just confessed to being hopeless at his new job. His brown hair wasn’t too long but also wasn’t too short, wavy and artfully messed up with gel, and his neatly trimmed stubble made me think of lazy Sunday mornings in bed.

See what I mean? Lust.

‘I noticed you on my way back from Starbucks,’ he said.

At first, I thought he meant he’d noticed me. That made me glance in the big mirror on the pillar behind him, where I could just see my reflection from where I was standing. At five-foot four, I was boob-height behind the desk in the gunmetal-grey fitted dress uniform all the front-desk staff had to wear. My wavy dark-red hair was as neat as it ever got. I flashed myself a reflected smile just to check my teeth. Of course, I couldn’t see any detail from where I stood. Only my big horsy mouth. Mum says giant teeth make my face interesting. I think I look a bit like one of the Muppets.

‘Do you have the space for a big party?’ he said. ‘For around four hundred people?’

He didn’t mean he’d noticed me; only the hotel. ‘We’ve got the Grand Ballroom and the whole top floor, which used to be the restaurant and bar. I think it’s even prettier than the ballroom, but it depends on your style and your budget and what you want to do with it.’

Based on his smile, you’d have thought I’d just told him we’d found a donor kidney for his operation. ‘I’ve been looking online, but there are too many choices,’ he said. ‘Plus, my company expects the world.’ He grimaced. ‘They didn’t like the hotel they used last year, or the year before that. I’m in over my head, to be honest. I think I need a guiding hand.’

I had just the hand he was looking for, and some ideas about where to guide it.

But instead of jumping up and down shouting ‘Pick Me, Pick Me!’, I put on my professional hat and gave him our events brochure and the team’s contact details. Because normal hotel receptionists don’t launch themselves into the arms of prospective clients.

When he reached over the desk to shake my hand, I had to resist the urge to bob a curtsy. ‘I’m Chuck Williamson. It was great to meet you, Rosie.’

He knew my name!

‘And thank you for being so nice. You might have saved my ass on this one. I’ll talk to your events people.’ He glanced again at my chest.

He didn’t know my name. He’d simply read my name badge.

No sooner had Chuck exited through the revolving door than my colleague, Digby, said, ‘My God, any more sparks and I’d have had to call the fire department.’

Digby was my best friend at the hotel and also a foreign transplant in Manhattan – where anyone without a 212 area code was foreign. Home for him was some little town in Kansas or Nebraska or somewhere with lots of tornadoes. Hearing Digby speak always made me think of The Wizard of Oz, but despite sounding like he was born on a combine harvester, Digby was clever. He did his degree at Cornell. That’s the Holy Grail for aspiring hotelies (as we’re known).

Digby didn’t let his pedigree go to his head, though, like I probably would have.

‘Just doing my job,’ I told him. But I knew I was blushing.

Our manager, Andi, swore under her breath. ‘That’s the last thing we need right now – some novice with another Christmas party to plan.’

‘That is our job,’ Digby pointed out.

‘Your job is to man the reception desk, Digby.’

Ya vol, Commandant.’ He saluted, before going to the other end of the desk.

‘But we do have room in the schedule, don’t we?’ I asked. Having just come off a rotation in the events department the month before, I knew they were looking for more business in that area. Our room occupancy hadn’t been all the company hoped for over the summer.

‘Plenty of room, no time,’ Andi snapped.

I’d love to tell you that I didn’t think any more about Chuck, that I was a cool twenty-five-year-old living her dream in New York. And it was my dream posting. I still couldn’t believe my luck. Well, luck and about a million hours earning my stripes in the hospitality industry. I’d already done stints in England and one in Sharm El Sheikh – though not in one of those fancy five-star resorts where people clean your sunglasses on the beach. It was a reasonable four-star one.

There’s a big misconception about hotelies that I should probably clear up. People assume that because we spend our days surrounded by luxury, we must live in the same glamour. The reality is 4a.m. wake-ups, meals eaten standing up, cheap living accommodation and, invariably, rain on our day off. Sounds like a blast, doesn’t it?

But I loved it. I loved that I was actually being paid to work in the industry where I did my degree. I loved the satisfied feeling I got every time a guest thanked me for solving a problem. And I loved that I could go anywhere in the world for work.

I especially loved that last part.

But back to Chuck, who’d been stuck in my head since the minute he’d walked through the hotel door.

I guess it was natural, given that I hadn’t had a boyfriend the whole time I’d been in the city. Flirting and a bit of snogging, yes, but nothing you could call a serious relationship.

There wasn’t any time, really, for a social life. That’s why hotelies hang out so much with each other. No one else has the same hours free. So, in the absence of other options, Digby and I were each other’s platonic date. He sounds like the perfect gay best friend, right? Only he wasn’t gay. He just had no interest in me. Nor I in him, which made him the ideal companion – hot enough in that freckle-faced farm-boy way to get into the nightclubs when we finished work at 1 or 2a.m., but not the type to go off shagging and leave me to find my way home on the subway alone.

‘I hope you’re happy,’ Andi said to me one morning a few days later. The thing about Andi is that she looks annoyed even when she’s not, so you’ve got to pay attention to her words rather than the severe expression on her narrow face. Nothing annoyed Andi like other people’s happiness.

But I had just taken my first morning sip of caramel latte. Who wouldn’t be happy?

‘You’ve got another assignment,’ she said. ‘That Christmas party. You’re on it.’

‘But I’m on reception.’ My heart was beating faster. She could only be talking about one Christmas party.

‘Yes, and you’re not going to get any extra time for the party, so don’t even think about it. I can’t spare anyone right now. You’ll have to juggle. He’s coming in at eleven to see the spaces and hopefully write a big fat cheque, but I want you back here as soon as you’re finished. Consider it an early lunch break.’

Even though my mind warned me to stop questioning, in case she changed her mind, I couldn’t resist. ‘Why isn’t Events handling it?’

‘They would have if he hadn’t asked for you especially. It’s just my luck that it’s a huge party. We can’t exactly say no.’

‘I’m sorry.’

‘Then wipe that stupid grin off your face and next time try not to be so frickin’ nice.’

‘I need to use the loo,’ I told her.

‘Pee on your own time,’ she said.

I didn’t really have to go, despite the industrial-size caramel latte. I just wanted to put on some make-up before Chuck arrived. Instead he’d see my green eyes unhighlighted by the mascara and flicky eyeliner that I rarely remembered to use. Pinching my cheeks did bring up a bit of colour behind my freckles, at least.

Every time the revolving doors swung round, I looked up to see if it was Chuck.

‘You’re going to get repetitive strain in your neck,’ Digby pointed out. ‘And you know our workmen’s comp sucks, so save yourself the injury. Besides, you look too eager when you stare at the door like that.’

‘I’m putting on a convivial welcome for our guests,’ I said. ‘Just like it says in the Employee’s Manual.’

He shook his head. ‘There’s no way that what you’re thinking is in the manual.’

The weather had turned cold, which was the perfect excuse for woolly tights and cosy knits or, if you were Chuck, a navy pea coat with the collar turned up that made him look like he’d been at sea. In a suit and dress shoes.

‘I’m so sorry I’m late,’ he said. ‘I hate wasting people’s time.’

‘It’s not a waste,’ I told him. ‘I’m just working.’ I caught Andi’s glare. ‘I mean, I’m on reception. I can show you the rooms any time you want.’

Anytime you want, Digby mimicked behind Chuck’s back. Luckily Andi didn’t catch him.

‘Thanks for agreeing to take on the party,’ he said as we shared the lift to the top floor. ‘Not that I gave your colleagues much of a choice. I told them I’d book the party if you were the one organising it. I hope you don’t mind. It’s just that you seemed … I don’t know, I got a good feeling about you.’

‘No, that’s fine,’ I said, willing my voice to sound calmer than I felt. Which meant anything short of stark raving mad. ‘Once you decide which room is most suitable, we can start talking about everything else.’

‘I knew you’d get it,’ he said.

The lift doors opened on the top floor into the wide entrance to the former restaurant. ‘As you can see, there’s still a lot of the original nineteen thirties decor,’ I said. ‘Especially these art deco wall sconces. I love them. Ooh, and look at that bar.’

I’d only been up there a few times, so I was as excited as Chuck as we ran around the room pointing out each interesting feature, from the geometrically mirrored pillars to the sexy-flapper-lady light fixtures.

‘I’m such a sucker for this old stuff,’ he said. ‘I grew up in a house full of antiques. Older than this, actually, in Chicago.’ Then he considered me. ‘You probably grew up in a castle from the middle ages or something, being English.’

‘That sounds draughty. No, my parents live in a nineteen fifties semi-detached with pebble-dash.’

‘I don’t know what any of that means except for the nineteen fifties, but it sounds exotic.’

‘Hardly. Let’s just say it looks nothing like this. Will this be big enough, though? You said up to four hundred. That might be a squeeze if we want to seat them all.’

‘My guest list has halved, actually,’ he said, shoving his hands into his coat pockets. ‘The company isn’t letting spouses and partners come. Isn’t that weird, to exclude them from a formal social event like that? It’s going to be black tie with dinner and dancing. They were always invited wherever I’ve worked before.’

The painful penny dropped with a clang. Of course he’d have the perfect girlfriend to bring along. A bloke that cute and nice wasn’t single.

‘Which company?’ I asked, covering my disappointment. ‘Your company now, I mean.’

‘Flable and Mead. The asset managers? Sorry, I should have said before.’

Of course I’d heard of them. They were only one of the biggest firms on Wall Street. No wonder Andi had to say yes when Chuck made his request. We were talking big money.

And big egos. ‘I’m not surprised that other halves aren’t invited,’ I told him. Surely he’d worked out why for himself. ‘They usually aren’t invited in the UK either. The Christmas do is your chance to get pissed and snog a colleague.’

Chuck laughed. ‘I’m really glad I’ve seen all those Hugh Grant movies so I know what you’re talking about. So maybe it’ll be everyone’s chance at Flable and Mead to snog a colleague too.’ When he smiled, a dimple appeared on his left side. Just the one. ‘And as you’re working with me to organise the party, I guess that makes you my colleague, right?’

Did he mean what I thought he meant? The cheeky sod. ‘Come on, I’ll show you the ballroom.’

But the ballroom had nowhere near the ambiance of the top floor, and I knew before Chuck said anything that it didn’t have the right feel. Whereas upstairs had character and charm, the ballroom had bling. I’d only known Chuck for a matter of hours, but already I knew he wasn’t the blingy type.

‘Definitely upstairs,’ he said. ‘So it’s done. We’ll book it. Now we just need to plan all the decorations, the food, the band, DJ. I guess the fee goes up depending on how much in-house stuff we use.’ He laughed. ‘I’m sorry, I really am in too deep here. I talked my way into my job. I have no idea how. My boss is a Northwestern alum like me and that must have swung it for me. Before I only worked organising conferences and a few parties at the local VFW hall. This is the big time.’

I knew exactly how he felt. When I first started at the hotel I had to pinch myself. There I was, about to live a life I’d only seen on telly. All I had to do was not muck things up. Digby had been on hand to show me the ropes when I needed it. So the least I could do for Chuck was to help him as much as I could.

That’s what I told myself. I was paying it forward.

‘We’ve got a range of decorations we can do,’ I told him, thinking about how much I was going to get to see him in the upcoming weeks. I could really stretch things out by showing him one tablecloth per visit. ‘And we work with a few good catering companies, who I’m sure can arrange anything from a sit-down meal to a buffet. One even does burger bars, if you want something more quirky.’

‘What I’ll want is for you to help me, Rosie. You will be able to do that, right?’

‘Of course,’ I said. ‘Whatever you need. It’s a whopping great fee your company is paying. That buys a lot of hand-holding.’

‘I was hoping you’d say that,’ he said. ‘The second I came in and saw you, I knew this was the right choice. We’re going to be great together, Rosie.’

I was thinking the exact same thing.

Buy The Big Dreams Beach Hotel here

Review

The Big Dreams Beach Hotel has a brilliant cast of eccentric and very memorable characters. They are only topped by the American Floridean-like takeover of the Scarborough hotel, which is quintessentially English. Trying to bring two completely different cultures together becomes a bit of a liability for everyone involved. Flamingos don’t look good on the English coast, the North Sea is always freezing and a funny shade of beige-brown, and the majority of people would rather eat a good fry-up than a plate of pretty looking nouvelle cuisine.

Rosie is smack bang in the middle of the battle to save the hotel from the enthusiastic and often ruthless clutches of the new owners. She is torn between the loyalty she feels for her friends and the handsome mediator/fixer the owners have sent in to represent their interests.

Rosie has been dealt a harsh hand in life when it comes to trust. Her career, her friendships and her relationships have suffered, because of her poor judgement and naivety. The question is whether she can manage to put the past behind her, establish new relationships, and deal with her trust issues.

On a side-note, I’m with Chef by the way, when it comes to the chocolate sell-out issue. I haven’t bought or touched a Creme Egg since they changed the recipe either. Power to the people!

Bartlett manages to capture the oddities of the English, especially those living on the east coast in Scarborough. They don’t take kindly to change or to anyone trying to mess with their bingo. The charm of Scarborough is actually the nostalgic feeling of the past, so any attempt to disturb that feeling of a romantic seaside town would never go down well.

It is a story filled with many moments that should remind us of our humanity. The way we should care and look out for each other. Stand together in times of difficulty. This is especially the case in this story, because the characters are outsiders, lonely forgotten people and flamboyant eccentrics, which makes it even more important that we don’t let them fall through the cracks of society.

Lilly Bartlett writes captivating romcoms with a subtle underlying flair of sociocultural issues.

Buy The Big Dreams Beach Hotel at AmazonUk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Blog-Tour: Let Us Be True by Alex Christofi

Today I have the pleasure to host the Blog-Tour for Let Us Be True by Alex Christofi. Featuring a fantastic Q&A with Alex Christofi and my review. The answers to the Q&A are just as captivating as the novel itself. The last four questions contain some spoilers, so for anyone who hasn’t read it yet and wants to read it without any extra info I will be adding a fair warning before and after those particular questions.

About the Author

Alex Christofi was born and grew up in Dorset. After reading English at the University of Oxford, he moved to London to work in publishing. He has written a number of short pieces for theatre, and blogs about arts and culture for Prospect magazine. Glass is his first novel. His second novel, Let Us Be True, is published by Serpent’s Tail.

Follow @alex_christofi @serpentstail Visit alexchristofi.com

Buy Let Us Be True

About the book

Paris, 1958. After a chance encounter, Ralf and Elsa begin a love affair that will mark their lives. Both already bear scars from their continent’s violent upheavals. The end of the war brought Ralf to Paris, where he feels he can hide from the past. Elsa meanwhile tries to hide not just her past from Ralf, but her present too. As they fall more deeply in love they face a dilemma: can you really love someone without giving yourself away?In a Paris recovering from the Second World War but riven by protests and discontent as the old world order falls away, Ralf tries desperately to hold on to the only person he has ever felt he belongs with, while facing the prospect of a reality where love might not be enough. Deeply moving and sweeping in scope, Alex Christofi’s second novel is an unforgettable love story as well as a profoundly affecting study of the personal cost of Europe’s bloody twentieth century.

Q&A

Before we get down to business (i.e. talking about your book) I would like to ask a set of questions I call ‘Breaking the Ice.’ (readers love to get to know all about their favourite and new authors)

The last book you read? (Inquisitive bookworms would like to know) I tend to consume books like tapas, so this is actually quite hard to answer. Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis, or a selected volume of Voltaire, or Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari, or Stories of Your Life by Ted Chiang.

Books or authors who have inspired you to put pen to paper? Mikhail Bulgakov, Emmanuel Carrere, George Orwell, George Saunders, Michel Faber, David Foster Wallace, Zadie Smith, Gustave Flaubert, Joseph Roth, Albert Camus. I love writers who can fuse beauty and cleverness with social purpose.

The last book you read, which you felt left a mark (in your heart, soul, wallet…you name it) The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante. Everyone has been talking about her for years so it’s not exactly a hot tip, but that’s the honest answer.

Are you more of a movie night or series-binger kind of guy? (Combinations are possible) Movie night. There are enough hanging plot threads in my actual life – I want to be able to sit back and look at the whole story. I don’t need Scheherezade feeding me cliffhangers every night forever. It’s like asking if you’d rather have limbo or a quick death.

Which famous person (dead, alive, barely kicking) would you most like to meet? Not probably any of the people I most admire. Marcus Aurelius was objectively a top guy, but would be a terrible date – after two drinks he would leave citing moderation in all things. You’d want someone with a wicked sense of humour who knew how to live. Hunter S Thompson would probably kill me, but maybe Angela Carter or Ernest Hemingway. Or Obama. Everyone wants to meet Obama.

All of the above questions are actually a pretty elaborate pysch evaluation disguised as random questions. Have no fear here come the real ones. Let’s talk about Let Us Be True.

Where did you get the inspiration for Let Us Be True? Probably a question you have been asked before, but I am genuinely interested in the inspiration for the story of Ralf and Elsa. It’s strange, because what I have ended up with is really a character novel – one that devotes a lot of space to investigating the particular psychology of two particular people – but I first conceived it as a novel about the moment after the Second World War that is rarely written about, after the initial reconstruction efforts but before the individualistic, consumer-driven sixties was in full swing. I wanted to write about what it was like to find yourself on the very cusp of the modern era.

Why Paris? Did you pick this particular setting because you know it well or because it made sense logistically, culturally and from an historical point of view? I wanted to write about a place very like our own, but different enough that people could judge it for what it was – a bit like the way Shakespeare tore into society by setting everything in Italy. But Paris in 1958 was also a fascinating place in its own right: the Fourth Republic was collapsing; the communists were still one of the biggest parties, but there was a fascist fifth column in the police; French Resistance hero Charles de Gaulle was returned to power in a military coup and suspended the constitution; France was effectively at war with its own Muslim population; there were peaceful protests, but people were still being guillotined. Parts of Paris were already petrifying into an eerily timeless postcard city, and at the same time some of its residential neighbourhoods were ‘îlots insalubres’, dirty islands of slum housing, where no one owned a fridge and tenants shared a squat toilet. I can’t think of a better (or more intense) analogue for the conflicts we are worrying about here and now.

Although you don’t play on the underlying theme too much, do you think Ralf and Elsa connect in such a monumental way because they share a common denominator in their home country and war-trauma? Absolutely – it is a part of why they connect and also one of the reasons why they clash. But the war itself can’t be spoken about directly, because it simply wasn’t done. It could be referred to, or implied obliquely, but very few people who were involved had any desire (or perhaps even ability) to talk about what they had been through. It is an elephant in the room – the clearest metaphor in the book is of Ralf and his mother sitting at the dining table, painfully aware of the father that isn’t present. Ralf eventually opens up about some of his childhood experiences, but Elsa doesn’t reciprocate, and we implicitly understand why.

Does Elsa accept the negative aspects of her marriage, because she feels guilty and believes she deserves to be punished? Is her separation from Ralf a form of penance? I don’t know if I could be that specific, but sadly it wasn’t uncommon for women to accept physical abuse as a fact of life at that time (which is not to say we have resolved the problem now). Whenever we make choices, we weigh them up relative to our life experience. Elsa’s life with Theo isn’t the worst thing that has happened to her, and its great virtue is that it’s secure and predictable. She has never had that before – for me at least it becomes hard to judge her choice, even if we wish she could make the leap.

Unbeknownst to Ralf Elsa represents the root cause of why his life changed in such a drastic way. Does Elsa make a choice against Ralf because she believes the truth about her past would be an insurmountable hurdle between them? Yes, I think so. But more than that, in order to reveal her past to him, she would have to give him access to parts of herself that she hasn’t shared with anyone, including her husband and family, and it would make her vulnerable in a way she hasn’t been since she was a young girl hiding in a forest, muddy, shivering, terrified and alone. The war didn’t end when the last shots were fired. There was a whole generation of survivors whose lives were irrevocably scarred by what they saw and did, and they were out there, walking in the world, for the best part of the twentieth century. We’ll never know whether so many of them remained silent to protect themselves or to protect the rest of us.

One could argue that Elsa presents a certain coldness, a lack of emotion even, and one could suggest that her experiences in childhood, and as a very young woman, have defined her personality and the choices she makes. However that specific sense of survival and ability to detach herself from emotions was already evident at an early age. This information in combination with the actions of many Germans during the Nazi era begs the question whether Elsa really is the lovable enigma who has managed to enchant Ralf like a personal Mata Hari or is she a woman who is a ruthless survivor? In some sense Elsa is, if not the Nazi ideal, at least a Nietzschean ideal, a forceful, self-directed character. She can’t or won’t be absorbed into a group mentality, which exposes a fundamental contradiction in Nazi ideology: they simultaneously exult exceptional individuals and demand people subsume themselves to the herd. Are some people more valuable than others, or are we all interchangeable members of a group?

I did also really want this to be a story about love, and I don’t think it’s a huge spoiler to say that love is one of the best answers to some of the questions posed in the book. But I wanted to resist this idea that’s very common in romance, that the underlying purpose of women’s behaviour can always be explained with reference to sex. Perhaps she is not stringing him along; perhaps it has nothing to do with him.

Thank you for answering all of my questions, even the odd ones! It was a pleasure – thank you for reading it with such care and attention. I think all writers dream of having careful readers!

Review

This read brings a sense of nostalgia with it and an aura of hidden emotions and unfulfilled desires. It is so much more than just a love story. It is about fractured identities and the trauma of war.

It is often hard for non-nomads or people who stay in one place their entire lives to understand what it is like to not feel as if you have a home or a country that feels like home. Being uprooted and becoming a displaced person can rock the very foundation of your existence.

I believe Elsa and Ralf share this feeling of not belonging and loss. Their home country and country of birth is their common denominator, despite their completely different paths in life.

Ralf doesn’t even feel at home in his surrogate country, and he also refuses to maintain a relationship with his mother. His landlord has become his family, a port of call in dire situations and France has become his safe haven.

Elsa is a survivor, albeit one from the other side of the battlefield. Her experiences have made her emotionally unresponsive, which is why she finds it hard to connect with her child and why she struggles to find a sense of peace in her life. It is also the reason she accepts certain negative aspects of her marriage including the occasional  bouts of violence.

I wonder if Elsa believes her guilt is something that would eventually come between them. A secret she can never reveal and perhaps never completely move on from.

Overall Elsa gives off a sense of detachment, a cold and hard face she presents to the world. It’s easy to forget her age at the time of her crimes and her complicity. Her trauma is no more than a footnote in history, although it is ultimately what steers and directs her sense of unhappiness.

In that sense the two of them share another bond in the form of very specific trauma. One could argue that his will always be greater because of the historical implications, however I would argue that trauma cannot be measured by what outsiders think.

France, like many other countries are often guilty of revisionism, especially when it comes to history. They like to forget and hide their guilt and crimes, and the part they played in some of the bloodiest and politically disruptive times in the twentieth century. They like to sweep a lot of uncomfortable truths under the carpet of national charm.

This is a love story taking place during some of those periods in time, so it isn’t just about two broken people finding a safe haven in each other, it is also about shining a light on the past. A past that is in danger of being repeated as we speak.

The author brings a maturity, insight and wisdom to the pages. He writes as if he has experienced decades of longing, pain and heartbreak. He is an author I will be revisiting. Oh and kudos to him for the Vélodrome d’Hiver part of the story. It’s a very significant and poignant part of history. A small moment in the book, but those are the ones that count.

Buy Let Us Be True at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Let Us Be True blog tour (1)

Holiday in the Hamptons by Sarah Morgan

Holiday in the HamptonsThis is the fifth book in the From Manhattan with Love series. If you’ve been following the books, this one features Harriet and Fliss, the twins who run a successful dog-walking business in New York. The focus is on Fliss and her ex-hubby Seth.

This story is dialogue heavy in a sense that the main characters spend a lot of time really digging into their problems. It is less light fluffy candy floss and more of a toffee you have to chew. Morgan can write the perfect literary equivalent of a chocolate chip cookie or a create a tear inducing read, and yet she is also a dab hand at the more intricate relationship plots.

Holiday in the Hamptons is witty and amusing, but it is also about a couple who disassemble their relationship in an attempt to at least salvage a friendship. Sometimes you have to step outside and look in through your own living room window to try and get some objectivity.

Fliss and Seth have spent quite a long time apart since the disastrous and rather abrupt end of their marriage. Fliss spends a large amount of time trying to avoid any contact with Seth. Not because she hates him, but because she is scared of her real feelings. There are so many unresolved issues she has never laid to bed or not really come to terms with yet. Seth just reminds her of her own failings.

Seth is giving Fliss the space she needs, although he would rather be one half of a happy couple again. Which is probably the reason he goes along with her crazy and outlandish scheme to keep Seth at arms length. It is quite hilarious though.

Morgan is an expert at entertaining her readers, whilst delving into the complexities of love, romance and relationships. There is no such thing as a dull moment in any of her stories.

Buy Holiday in the Hamptons at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

You can connect with Sarah online at her website: www.sarahmorgan.com on Facebook at www.facebook.com/AuthorSarahMorgan or on Twitter @SarahMorgan_

Read New York Actually (From Manhattan with Love #4)Miracle on 5th Avenue (From Manhattan With Love #3)Sunset in Central Park (From Manhattan with Love #2)Sleepless in Manhattan (From Manhattan with Love #1)Christmas Ever AfterFirst Time in ForeverMaybe This Christmas, Sleighbells in the SnowSuddenly Last Summer or The Notting Hill Diaries, all by Sarah Morgan.

Follow @SarahMorgan_@HQStories and @HarperCollinsUK

The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo

The LightAt a glance this story might seem like a long expedition into the self-absorbed meanderings of the main character. It is however much more than that.

Everyone lives in their head. In fact to be more specific, there are at least three versions of every person.

The version we show to the world, the version of us we show to our family, partners and close friends, and then there is the version that lives inside us. The one that lives in our head, the one we have internal conversations with, the version of us who voices thoughts nobody ever hears.

The Light we Lost is Lucy’s internal voice and inner version of herself. It is essentially the written dialogue of hopes, fears and desires we never share with anyone else.

I think this is a story a lot of readers will be able to identify with. If you think back upon your life you might be able to recognise certain moments you could call crossroads. Days or decisions that took you in one direction when you could have chosen another one in the same moment.

It’s the same sentiment as some of us meeting what one would call the great love of our life, but ending up letting them go or choosing a path different to theirs. In Lucy’s case this person is Gabe. Santopolo describes it quite accurately when she writes something akin to some loves are like a hearth fire, warm and cosy, and others are like raging uncontrollable bushfires. One of them is consistent and reliable, and the other leaves you breathless and disorientated.

Lucy and Gabe have a relationship filled with What-If’s and it never being the right moment in time for the two of them. A pocket full of regrets and bag full of imaginary scenarios that could have been.

I really enjoyed this book, perhaps because it is simplistic, and yet poignant. It’s like entering a secret door in someone’s head, and having a front row seat to their inner thoughts and a lifetime of emotions.

Santopolo makes you feel as if you’re sitting on your couch drinking a glass of wine listening to a friend talk about their secret love. It’s an intimate moment, and yet at the same time it is a universal one, and so is this story.

Buy The Light We Lost at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @JillSantopolo

The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir by Jennifer Ryan

chilburyThis book sort of reads a wee bit like a TV series (home-front setting), with the reader discovering a little bit more about each character each week. It is a comfortable read, despite all the drama.

The trials and tribulations of the choir members become inconsequential when they get together and sing for Britain. Singing for Britain might seem like an exaggeration, however in times of war when the country is fighting to survive it probably feels as if they are.

There are a lot of different character story-lines connected via the occasional sing-song. The choir becomes the busy traffic junction for all the members. It is something consistent during a time of fear, worry and turbulence.

I think the author should have emphasized the choir more and the moments of pure harmony between the singers. Those few minutes of joy and happiness struggle to stay afloat in the sheer volume of sub-plots. It was a little disjointed, perhaps because it needed more focus on one boat in a sea of ships.

Buy The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @JenniferiRyan  or @HarperCollinsUK on Twitter.

The Best of Adam Sharp by Graeme Simsion

adam sharpI can’t help but think that is one of the many wet dreams men in the middle of a mid-life crisis have, especially the whole ‘sex with no strings with another man’s wife while he is there looking on’ scenario. Yeh, no that was a wee bit out there, but hey anything goes right. Well nearly anything.

Adam is a middle-aged bloke in a comfortable relationship with Claire and has the liberty of working at his own pace for only half of the year.

Clearly the grass isn’t green enough on his side of the fence though, which leaves him vulnerable to ghosts of the past.

When an ex reconnects he finds himself falling into an emotional trap. He quickly crosses the line from innocent banter to outright flirting. Before he knows it he is cheating emotionally.

Things come to a head with his partner and all of a sudden he is on his way to meet his long lost love and her hubby. The rest is a roller coaster of emotions and expectations.

Playlists in stories are very much an en vogue feature of our era. It’s not really my cup of tea. The occasional musical reference for an important moment is fine, but being bombarded with music can interfere with the story. It can be detrimental to the flow. Saying that, I do think Simsion manages to create the perfect balance, perhaps because two of the main characters are singers/musicians. Every moment between them is captured in time with a specific melody and/or song.

It is the unapologetic romp of a middle-aged man who wants to have his cake and eat it too.

Buy The Best of Adam Sharp at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.