Friday, 30 August 2013

Dear Thing by Julie Cohen

Dear ThingDear Thing by Julie Cohen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is written around a subject I'd never think I'd feel much empathy with at all - surrogacy and the desperate need for a baby which can take over a couples life. Being Childfree by choice, without a single maternal bone in my body I've never been able to understand what the urgency to procreate is all about.

This book goes some way towards giving me an insight to what it might be like to feel your life is incomplete without the patter of tiny feet, as Claire is experiencing huge distress after yet another humiliating and soul destroying failed attempt at ivf and resulting early miscarriage. Her husband Ben completely misses the point as to why she feels unable to continue trying and experiencing the resulting failure over and over and pours out his heart to his best mate, his platonic long time female friend Romily, rather laddish, sport loving and total opposite to girly nest making home loving Claire, already a single Mum to precocious Posie (the only character in the book I actually liked)

When over a pint together Romily rather rashly offers to be a surrogate mother for the couple, Ben seizes on her conceiving through artificial insemination and carrying his child to full term for him and Claire as the perfect solution. Claire who doesn't know Romily quite so well as Ben, understandably has her doubts. But they go ahead and find that far from being the ideal solution this decision has its own far reaching consequences for all of them.

For Romily is hiding a secret of which Ben and Claire have no idea and must never know - She is and always has been deeply in love with Ben - so much that she will do ANYTHING to keep him happy even if that means bearing his child and giving it away at the end of the pregnancy ...

This story is about feelings and secrets and a bunch of characters I think Id actually loathe in real life allowing the reader a glimpse into their complicated relationships and fragmented world and its done with huge panache, the readability factor is great I just couldn't put it down once I'd begun reading and would recommend it to women of any age parents or not who enjoy a really well written drama.

The author has tackled this emotive and rather controversial subject head on and brings to the fore issues which are bound to arise when surrogacy is entered into and made it into a clever and hugely enjoyable read.

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Monday, 26 August 2013

A Bargain Struck - Liz Harris

A Bargain StruckA Bargain Struck by Liz Harris
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have to be honest - when I read the blurb for this new Choc-lit title by Liz Harris - author of the outstanding romance The Road Back I hummed and ahhed, wondering why, when choc-lit's romances are usually so innovative and inventive, they'd bring out a book in the UK on a theme which could be described as done to death (and often quite badly by the often slightly tacky American romance houses) but I worried needlessly, from the first few pages it becomes obvious that the talent of this author and the quirkiness of this particular story lift it acres above the mass paperback market this kind of story is often aimed at.

OK I'd better tell you a bit about it hadn't I? Set in the American West in the late 19th century when women had few options apart from staying with and caring for families, often treated little better than a slave, or marriage, also frequently not a bed of roses. Take a woman, Ellen, recently widowed and not considering herself in a position to be in any way picky, with no caring family and no home or even a job to fall back on and those limited choices become almost non existent, so when she reads an advert from a widowed homesteader, writes to him and gets accepted by him as a potential bride, we can forgive her for being somewhat reticent to reveal in advance her shortcomings.

Stepping off the train in Wyoming she is relieved that her "mail order" husband Connor, is prepared to overlook her flaws and go ahead with this unconventional pairing and even seems kindly and easy on the eye. Thus she finds herself quickly Mrs Maguire, wife in name and in bed to a man keen to father a son and in need of a hard working woman to keep house and care for his truculent and reluctant 8 year old daughter Bridget who finds it impossible to accept this newcomer, seemingly intent on replacing her late mother whom she still misses so much its turned her into a bitter and angry young woman..

Ellen throws herself into her new life, grateful for his willingness to marry her and provide her with a home.

We are drawn into the life on a homestead and in a small Wyoming town, keen to see whether their bargain will last and if they will manage to weather the inevitable storms. Ellen faces feelings of envy towards the fashionable and beautiful Oonagh whom she believes Connor should have married, and when Oonagh extends a hand of friendship to Ellen she is happy to comply, not having many friends she can talk to. When Connors estranged brother arrives on the scene this causes further friction in the household.

I felt as though I was living there with them as a fly on the wall, its so very descriptive and it really brought home how limited choices were, especially for women and how prejudice was rife and if you were the brunt of peoples scorn or criticism it was just easier to put up with it rather than fight back and risk an already tenuous position.

My only criticism is that I found it a little hard to accept the young Bridgets appalling behaviour towards her new step mum would be tolerated for so long but otherwise its an absorbing and enjoyable historical romance which will carry you away to an unfamiliar place and time whilst entertaining you and keeping you wanting to know what happens to Ellen, Connor and Bridget.

Buy your copy at Amazon available now for Kindle and to pre order in gorgeous paperback

Discover more great romantic novels at http://choc-lit.co.uk/

Sunday, 11 August 2013

The Never list - Koethi Zan

The Never ListThe Never List by Koethi Zan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I picked this book from the advance reading copies on Netgalley as it sounded a bit unusual, rather dark and scary, and it certainly was.

Its the story of the kidnap of 4 young girls told in the voices of 3 of them years after the event when they are trying and almost failing to get their lives back together as survivors of a deeply traumatic event.

Sarah and her friend Jennifer survive a dreadful accident, defying massive odds then devote their teenage years to trying to narrow the odds against anything else terrible happening - you could say they become obsessed with creating their never list of all manner of things which might be dangerous and if avoided will lessen their chances of "bad things" happening.

But you can't outwit fate and the unthinkable does happen and they end up incarcerated in a dark cellar at the hands of a madman. As the story is told from the survivors perspective 10 years later the events are drip fed to us in small bites, leaving an awful lot to the imagination. I think I'd have possibly preferred a slightly more direct approach as I need things spelling out to me! It brushes on sado masochism, torture and hints at unimaginable depravities, but I was a bit frustrated at times and would actually have liked to know a bit more about what was actually supposed to have been done. Its very tense but it didn't quite horrify me as much as I was expecting given the subject matter.

However the drip drip effect works in keeping you on the edge of your seat, a real page turner and there are quite a few twists and turns which build up to not one but two climaxes.

The writing style reminded me very much of the style of Dark Places and I think it would also appeal to anyone who liked Still Missing