What We’re Reading

Our Word Wench WWR posts are always popular, and our July reads start with Nicola Cornick:

Shrines of GaietyNicola here. My favourite read this month was Shrines of Gaiety by Kate Atkinson, which is set in London in the 1920s in the glittering and criminal world of the Soho clubs. I picked it up because the story, about the Croker family and their entertainment empire was inspired by that of the infamous nightclub owner Kate Meyrick, several of whose daughters married into the aristocracy, including the Craven family. The book perfectly captures the complicated and glamorous world of 1920s society. The character of Nellie Coker, the matriarch, is compelling, as is the plot in which the police on one side and Nellie’s enemies in the criminal fraternity on the other, are all aiming to bring her down. Her eldest son, Niven, is a great romantic hero. My major grumble was that the romance strand was left hanging, which was very frustrating for those of us who like happy endings! I’ve enjoyed some Kate Atkinson books more than others but this was one of my favourites.

US link here: UK line here.

I also picked up The Death of Mrs Westaway by Ruth Ware and thoroughly enjoyed that too. Mrs WestawayHarriet Westaway, struggling to make ends meet and even to survive in Brighton after her mother’s death, receives a letter that seems to answer all her prayers. The Cornish grandmother she never knew has left her a fortune. But Harriet’s grandparents died 20 years before… didn’t they? Desperate for the money, she decides to chance it and see if she can get away with the fraud, which brings her into the Westaway family circle and a whole host of secrets waiting to be revealed. This is a gothic thriller with all the trappings – a creepy old house, an equally creepy old family retainer and various weird relatives hiding all sorts of secrets. I found it a page-turner and went on to read another of Ruth Ware’s books, The It Girl, straight after.

US link UK link

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What We Read in May

Anne here, and it's that time again, where we share the books we've read and enjoyed in the last month. Brace your credit cards . . . 

We start with Christina: SummerFrenchCafe
My favourite read this month was Sue Moorcroft’s latest novel Summer at the French Café.  This story is an absolute delight and exactly what I needed right now to sweep me away from real life! It’s a wonderful tale of learning to trust, the importance of being open and honest with everyone, and the healing power of love. The reader can’t help but empathise with the hard-working heroine Kat from the start. She’s independent and capable, but with a positive outlook on life, and she never complains even when things go decidedly pear-shaped. A child of divorced parents, she has lots of emotional baggage, but for the most part, she manages to ignore it. Then the hero Noah arrives on the scene and he seems almost too good to be true. He has his own problems to contend with, but instead of charging in like a bull in a china shop, he stops to consider the best way of solving them. I fell head over heels in love with him – how can you not love a man as determined as he is to do the right thing for his very sensitive 8-year old daughter, while at the same time being the perfect boyfriend? Kat has to decide whether she dares to take a chance and believe that he is every bit as great as he seems, and I was rooting for this couple all the way. This is definitely the perfect summer story!  (If the links above don't work for you, try this one.)


I also very much enjoyed Under One Roof, a novella by Ali Hazelwood which she calls “STEMist”. The heroine Mara is an environmental engineer and extremely brilliant at what she does, but she’s fighting against sexism and prejudice in her workplace. She’s just been left a half share in a house by her former mentor, but she hadn’t reckoned with having to share it with the woman’s nephew Liam. At first glance he is everything she hates – a corporate lawyer working for a company that has no regard for the environment whatsoever. They try to co-exist as house owners, but drive each other nuts. But everything is not as it seems, and slowly but surely they begin to find common ground. I absolutely loved the chemistry between these two and watching the romance develop. This is only the first novella in a series of three and I can’t wait for the other two!

Pat Rice tells us about: SEVEN DAYS OF US by Francesca Hornak.

7daysofUsThe basic story here is that Olivia Birch has been treating some kind of plague in Africa and when she comes home for Christmas, she has to quarantine for a week. So her family quarantines with her in their stately old, crumbling manor in Norfolk. Olivia is the no-nonsense doctor out to save the world. Andrew, her father, was a journalist who once thought he could save the world. Now he’s a food critic. Emma, his wife, gave up her dreams to be a mother and has buried herself in tradition. Phoebe is the younger sister with no purpose other than getting married. Into this suffocating atmosphere drops Jesse, an American son fathered by Andrew while he was in a war zone. He had been given up for adoption and is now searching for his birth parents. Nuclear explosion ensues.

Make no mistake about it, this is a deliberately literary novel, so you won’t get your fun and games happy ending, but the writing is positively compelling. The reader is dragged into their mixed-up lives and really needs to know how all these good, but confused, people fix themselves or each other. We root them on as they grope about in their darkness. I can promise that they find a new kind of light at the end of their week of togetherness, so it’s well worth diving into for your escapism addiction.

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Comfort Food!

by Mary Jo

Baklava 2In complicated times, we need our comfort foods!  What foods and drinks do you reach for when you need soothing?

Nicola is first:

I’ve been a comfort eater ever since I was a teen and over the last couple of years my eating did rather spiral out of control as a result of all the stresses in the world, macro-sized ones and personal challenges. One bag of crisps became an entire family sized bag I had to myself and the same went for chocolate. When I realised that I needed an entirely new set of clothes to accommodate me and my eating habit, I realised I had to stop.

So I signed up for a programme to help me change my mindset towards food. It wasn’t a diet because it didn’t need willpower, which was good because I don’t have any when it comes to eating. Instead it sort of reset my attitude towards food. So the brilliant thing about it is that I can still eat all the lovely comfort foods I enjoy – cheese and onion crisps, chocolate mini-eggs, hot buttered toast – but as treats rather than in huge quantities. And I’ve discovered the comfort of eating stuff that’s actually good for me: luxury jacket potatoes, lovely rich casseroles in winter.

But when it comes to the ultimate in comfort food then I seek out baklava. For those who haven’t yet discovered it, baklava is a layered filo pastry dessert filled with chopped nuts (my favourite being pistachios), sweetened with honey and spiced with cinnamon and cardamom. When it’s warm the filo pastry is all soft and gooey with the honey mixture, and the spices are subtle and delicious. You can cut it into square pieces to eat as sweet treats – as large or small as you like. It’s scrumptious and there’s a wonderful recipe for it here:


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Farewell Blues

Farewell-Blues-350x525Farewell Blues: An Interview with Maggie Robinson

By Mary Jo

MJP: I'm delighted to welcome Maggie Robinson here today.  She started out in historical romance and is now writing historical mysteries.  She's here to discuss her recent release, Farewell Blues, fourth and last of her historical mystery Lady Adelaide series. 

Maggie, I've been enthralled by this series ever since you first told me the premise for book one, Nobody's Sweetheart Now.  Will you explain the setup of the series?  And tell us about the men in Addie's life!

MR:  I’m delighted to be here! Ah, the set up. It sounds…a little crazy. But I’m reminded of this description of The Wizard of Oz: “Transported to a surreal landscape, a young girl kills the first person she meets, then teams up with three strangers to kill again.”

Boiled down to its basics, there’s a widowed marquess’s daughter, the ghost of her philandering yet fatally charming husband, and a handsome Anglo-Indian detective. They team up not to kill but find killers through four light-hearted cozy mysteries.  (Nobody's Sweetheart Now, Whose Sorry Now, Just Make Believe, and Farewell Blues.)

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2021 Anniversary Part 2

Depositphotos_131678186_xl-2015 - CopyAnniversary Garden Party & Giveaway, Part 2

Collected by Mary Jo

Welcome to the second part of the Word Wench anniversary garden party, and this time, we're giving out books!  The Wenches will give books to seven winners chosen at random from among the commenters by Tuesday night. So tell us your thoughts!  (Commenters from both days of the anniversary posts are eligible.)

As on Friday, each Wench will summon one of our fictional couples from Pat Rice's magical library. Because libraries are all magical, here we can meet people from all places and times.  The invitation will invite our people to a party in Anne Gracie's Bellaire Gardens, which is a wonderful garden square that is completely surrounded by grand residences.  The garden is essentially the back yard of the houses, so residents can stroll and meet and mingle.

Come meet the other guests!


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