Review: The Rome Affair by Karen Swan

The Rome AffairThe Rome Affair by Karen Swan

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

The Rome Affair is an absolutely perfect Summer read. Set in two different time periods, it’s addictive and engaging with a lot of mystery and just the right amount of romance to make it impossible to put down.

Swan’s descriptions will transport you to the Eternal City and some of the most glamorous locations around the world. Definitely one I’d recommend.


Synopsis

The glamorous capital city of Italy is brought to startling life in The Rome Affair, a compelling summer novel by Karen Swan.

1974 and Elena Damiani lives a gilded life. Born to wealth and a noted beauty, no door is closed to her, no man can resist her. At twenty-six, she is already onto her third husband when she meets her love match. But he is the one man she can never have, and all the beauty and money in the world can’t change it.

2017 and Francesca Hackett is living la dolce vita in Rome, leading tourist groups around the Eternal City and forgetting the ghosts she left behind in London. When she finds a stolen designer handbag in her dustbin and returns it, she is brought into the orbit of her grand neighbour who lives across the piazza – famed socialite Viscontessa Elena dei Damiani Pignatelli della Mirandola. Though the purse is stolen, Elena greets the return of the bag with exultation for it contains an unopened letter written by her husband on his deathbed, twelve years earlier.

Mutually intrigued by each other, the two women agree to collaborate on a project, with Cesca interviewing Elena for her memoirs. As summer unfurls, Elena tells her sensational stories, leaving Cesca in her thrall. But when a priceless diamond ring found in an ancient tunnel below the city streets is ascribed to Elena, Cesca begins to suspect a shocking secret at the heart of Elena’s life.


Review

I was a little bit worried when I started reading the Rome Affair that it was simply going to be a rehash of the authors previous book The Paris Secret. From the synopsis it sounds very similar, young woman running away from trouble in her own life goes to stay in a European city and ends up investigating a mystery from the past, and I suppose it kind of is. Despite some similarities however, this is a very different book and for me it was even better.

It has Swan’s usual wonderful writing but there is something compelling and addictive about the story. I picked the book up late one Saturday night and found it impossible to put down, finishing it on Sunday afternoon. The descriptions and feel of the book drew me in so completely that it was actually a bit of a shock to the system to be back in the real world.

The narrative flips back and forth in time and is told from Cesca’s point of view in the present and Elena’s in the past and while I found both fascinating I have to confess it was Elena’s story that captivated me. Her life as a rich heiress, socializing with the rich and famous while struggling to fit in and ultimately being abandoned time after time is compelling reading. The contrast between experiencing it through her eyes and hearing her tell Cesca the story works incredibly well. She edits and spins her experiences to paint the picture she wants to show the world and it definitely makes you question whether her final perfect romance was all it seemed.

Cesca’s story in the present is slightly less intriguing, she’s hiding from something that happened in London and trying to enjoy the simple things in life in Rome, with mixed success. There’s a little bit of romance in the air and she has to admit to and face up to her past but her role seemed to be primarily to dig into Elena’s past. I didn’t think she was necessarily the most likeable of characters but she was perfect for the role of interrogator/investigator and her love of her new home really flows through the pages.

The setting of Rome was definitely one of the highlights for me as, while I’ve only visited once, I absolutely love it. The author’s descriptions are so wonderful they give a real sense of the city as well as the other settings in the novel (Greece, Florida, New York). It’s very easy to imagine yourself getting a pizza and eating outside on the piazza, visiting the tunnels running under the city, visiting a nightclub in New York or sunbathing on a yacht off a Greek Island.

The pacing of the story is spot on and there are plenty of twists and turns to grab your attention. I spent a lot of the book guessing what had happened and while you can see most of it coming there were still a few surprises that I doubt many will guess.

Overall, I would definitely rate this as one of my favorite reads of the Summer. With an addictive story, a wonderful setting and brilliant writing I would recommend this to anyone who likes a novel with a lot of secrets and a bit of romance.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC. As always all views are my own.

Review: When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

When Dimple Met RishiWhen Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

(I know, I really thought my rating would be higher too)

This is a book with a lot of hype around it and unfortunately for me it didn’t quite live up to it. It’s an enjoyable read and it’s fantastic to see this type of cultural diversity but it lacks that special something to make it stand out from all of the other YA contemporary romances out there.


Synopsis

Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?

Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.

The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?

Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.


Review

I’m a big fan of YA contemporaries, so when I saw all of the fantastic reviews for When Dimple Met Rishi I was so excited to get my hands on a copy. Unfortunately I think all of the hype around it may have been where it all went a bit wrong for me as it led to high expectations it couldn’t possibly live up to. There isn’t anything particularly bad about it but I think I just wanted more.

I do have to applaud the author for finally giving us a culturally diverse YA romance. I don’t know how accurate its portrayal of the Indian culture is (I suspect not completely given some of reviews I’ve seen) but I loved the way elements such as the language, importance of family, customs and even religion were woven into the story in a, for the most part, natural way.

I also loved that it was Dimple who was the driving force in the story. She’s the one who’s into computers and science and is determined to win the app design competition at all costs. It’s so good to see female characters in traditionally male dominated areas and also to have a female character who rates her career and future as more important than finding a boyfriend.

I do think though that the author could have taken this further with a bit more time spent on creating the app (I know nothing about techie stuff but I’m sure girls who do would have appreciated it). Unfortunately though, other than some discussion over the concept, Dimple and Rishi don’t seem to do any actual programming or anything remotely IT-ish. Instead the focus and the majority of the book is taken up with a scavenger hunt and preparing for a talent show, with everything else being brushed over. Why a talent show would be a vital part of the competition was a bit of a mystery to me and seemed more like an excuse to work some Bollywood dancing into the story.

It would also have been good to see at least one other female character who’s there to compete. Her roommate and friend is more interested in finding a rich and popular boyfriend and the only other girl seems to just be tagging along with the guys and doesn’t give the impression of being the brightest. I know it’s a male dominated area but I would have loved to have more than one female character who’s serious about it.

Dimple is also not the most likeable of characters. She is passionate and driven to succeed which I loved but had a bit of a tendency to throw a strop at the drop of a hat. She came across as unreasonable and immature a lot of the time and I hated the way she treated Rishi.

Rishi, is almost like the exact opposite of Dimple and I adored him. For him family and tradition are more important than what he wants. He’s proud of his background and his culture and speaks up for himself and others. He’s super sweet, generous, funny and a bit of a romantic. If someone wants to arrange for me to marry him I would not be against it 🙂

The romance was quite cute and I loved how it started as an arranged marriage but other than that there wasn’t anything particularly unique or stand out about it. There was the odd moment that made me laugh however, it’s one of those stories that you quite enjoy at the time but more or less forget the moment you finish.

Overall, an enjoyable read which definitely gets a thumbs up for a strong female main character and lots of diversity but isn’t quite the stand out read I was hoping for.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC. As always all thoughts are my own.

Review: The Bed and Breakfast on the Beach by Kat French

The Bed and Breakfast on the BeachThe Bed and Breakfast on the Beach by Kat French

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Another perfect summer read from Kat French.

I’ve been a big fan of Kat (and alter ego Kitty) French for a while and always look forward to a new book from her. This time we’re off to a B&B on a little known Greek Island with three thirty something women who are at a bit of a cross roads in their lives. Stella has lost her job, Frankie has split from her husband now that their children are grown up and Winnie has found out her husband has been unfaithful.

When they take a short break to Villa Valentina on the sun soaked Greek Island of Skelidos and are plied with numerous G&T’s by the B&B’s charming owner they somehow find themselves the new owners of the B&B and a few other things. They decide to make a go of it but can the B&B offer a new start or is it one adventure too far.

I liked this story a lot. It’s light and fluffy with a little bit of romance, a few touching moments and more than a few laughs. I loved the setting of the shabby chic villa on Skelidos and I think French’s descriptions of the island and the locals were the real highlight of the story. I could almost imagine myself relaxing on the beach or beside the pool with one of the Island’s special Gin and tonics in one hand and a book in the other.

The relationship between the three friends Stella, Frankie and Winnie was also wonderfully portrayed. They had been friends since childhood and despite being very different you got a real sense of closeness and camaraderie between them. I loved how they teased each other but were always there to support each other, even when there was the odd disagreement.

With three main characters and at times three different storylines going on it did feel a bit much to me. The pov switched between characters quite a lot, particularly in the beginning, and for this reason I didn’t think enough time was spent on certain characters or plot lines. I would have preferred if the story had focused on one of the three women and their relationship, allowing a little more depth and emotion. This is however a personal preference as I’m not generally a fan of romances with more than one couple. It may have been for this reason that I didn’t feel any particular spark between any of the couples.

Snarky Australian next door neighbor Jessie did bring the phwoar factor but he just wasn’t there enough for me and the other guys were a little bit meh. French can write some really great steamy scenes and has proven before that she can bring real emotion into a rom com so I’m not entirely sure why I didn’t get it from this book. It’s very possible I was just not in the right frame of mind when I was reading it.

Overall, it is a great read and perfect for lying on the beach by the pool (or if you’re in Scotland like me, hiding from the rain). There are a lot of funny moments and a few really sweet ones so I did enjoy it, I just didn’t quite love it as much as some of her others.

Thanks to NetGalley and the Avon for providing me with an ARC. As always all views are my own.

The Bed and Breakfast on the Beach was released on 22nd June and you can find it here on Amazon UK, here on Amazon US and here on Book Depository 🙂

ARC Review: Holiday in the Hamptons by Sarah Morgan

Holiday in the HamptonsHoliday in the Hamptons by Sarah Morgan

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

I always look forward to a new book from Sarah Morgan and yet again I managed to devour the whole thing in one sitting, they are just sooo addictive. Absolutely perfect when you want to lose yourself for a little while.

This is the 5th book in the author’s From Manhattan with Love series but could easily be read as a standalone as, while there are some mild spoilers for previous books, there doesn’t tend to be too much of an overlap.

This time the story follows Felicity (Fliss), sister of Daniel who was the MC in the previous book New York, Actually, who as the story begins is trying to avoid ex husband Seth. They married when they were teenagers but it was a short marriage that left them both a bit broken. Unwilling to face him when he starts working in Manhattan, Fliss flees to the Hamptons to stay with her Grandmother but her plan fails spectacularly when she bumps into him within an hour of arriving and finds he lives in the area.

Seth however has never gotten over Fliss and is determined to win her back no matter what lengths she goes to to avoid him. But with all of the history between them, can you ever really go back?

Essentially it’s a story about dealing with and learning from past mistakes and maybe trying again and I really loved it. Felicity is probably one of my favorite Sarah Morgan characters, or at least the one I can relate to the most. She’s not a gushy romantic who wants to talk about her feelings. She’d much rather bottle everything up and channel all of her energy into her work. It’s not necessarily that healthy but I loved how independent and determined she was. She’s terrified of being hurt or showing how she feels in case it’s used against her but in many way’s she’s incredibly strong and fiercely protective of her twin sister Harriet.

Seth *swoons* is probably my idea of the perfect romantic interest. I’m an animal lover and he’s a vet so I was always going to crush on him (I’ve had a crush on just about every vet I’ve met in real life). What makes him better though is that he’s just so sweet and caring *swoons again*.

The relationship between them is definitely interesting and they balance each other out nicely. There was possibly a bit less of a spark than I would have liked but there is just enough chemistry that you want them to get together.

One of the highlights of this book however was the animals. Seth is a vet and Fliss runs a dog walking business with her sister so dogs feature a lot and Morgan gives them such great characters that I wanted to rush out and get one (possibly Hero). They definitely add a lot of light relief which is occasionally needed in this story.

I also loved how Matilda, a very minor character from the first book in the series got to play a much more significant role this time around. She’s now a happily married and successful romance writer and the source of some brilliant insights into relationships (and hilariously funny at times). I would actually be quite interested in getting to read her story at some point as I think I’d enjoy it.

I did love the story in this one, I like a good second time around romance and while you know how it’ll no doubt end it’s an enjoyable ride with a bit more depth than you would expect from this type of read. There are quite a few secrets revealed throughout and some surprises that definitely keep you reading even when you should be doing something much less fun (cleaning, cooking, sleeping).

Overall, yet another great read from Morgan and now I’m looking forward to book 6 which I suspect will be Harriet’s story.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC. As always all views are my own.

Review: The Cornish Escape by Lily Graham

The Cornish EscapeThe Cornish Escape by Lily Graham

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Cornish Escape was my first book by Lily Graham and, in the best possible way, was completely different from what I thought it would be. I was expecting a light and fluffy beach romance but, while there are in fact two romances, what really captivated me was the mystery. There’s something very haunting about it in places and I loved the authors writing style. It drew me in completely and I found it very difficult to put it down

It has also convinced me that I absolutely must run away to Cornwall.

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Review: Paris for One and Other Stories by Jojo Moyes

Paris for One and Other StoriesParis for One and Other Stories by Jojo Moyes

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m generally not a fan of short stories, they’re far too short, so why I decided to pick up this collection is probably a fair question. The answer was very simple, Jojo Moyes. I absolutely love Jojo Moyes writing and think I have read pretty much every book she’s written. I was therefore very curious to see what she would do with the shorter format. It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve been really let down by a favorite authors attempt at a short story but thankfully Moyes didn’t disappoint.Read More »