Book review: Spring has sprung and love is in the air

Spring has sprung and love is in the air
Spring has sprung and love is in the air
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Romance and drama take star billing as we sail away into a new season of reading.

Join popular Irish author Patricia Scanlan for an intriguing tale of friendship, meet a scullery maid at the start of an unexpected journey, enjoy the life and times of 1930s Liverpool shop girls, witness the rigours of working class life in 1920s Leeds and delight in a sparkling Regency romance.

A Time for Friends by Patricia Scanlan

Even the best of friendships can sometimes be tested… but can a close friend really become a dangerous enemy?

Much-loved Irish author Patricia Scanlan is on cracking form in her sparkling new novel which serves up another slice of acutely observed real-life drama with her trademark warmth and humanity.

Scanlan fields a cast of lively characters in an intriguing and perceptive story which explores whether the boundaries of friendship can be pushed too far and if there comes a time to finally call it a day.

‘To have a friend you have to be a friend,’ Hilary Hammond once told her oldest and best friend Colette O’Mahony during a row.

The two women, complete opposites in temperament, have been friends since childhood. It’s a friendship that has often been tested to the limit by Colette’s selfish behaviour but warm-hearted Hilary has remained loyal through thick and thin.

When irrepressible Jonathan Harpur breezes into Hilary’s life and goes into business with her, Colette is not best pleased. After their first encounter, Colette thinks he’s ‘a pushy upstart’ while Jonathan is convinced that she is ‘a snobby little diva.’

The battle lines are drawn and poor Hilary is bang in the middle. But as the years roll by and each of them is faced with difficult times and tough decisions, Hilary’s words of warning to Colette come back to haunt them both.

And when push comes to shove, Hilary has to decide if it is time to stop flying over oceans for someone who wouldn’t jump over a puddle for her.

Set against some of Ireland’s most contentious social, financial and political issues, Scanlan’s thought-provoking and very human story blends romance and drama with an easy style and genuine affection.

(Simon & Schuster, hardback, £7.99)

Maid of Oaklands Manor by Terri Nixon

There’s danger, romance and action aplenty in the first of Terri Nixon’s enthralling and gritty Oaklands Manor trilogy which was shortlisted for the RNA’s Best Historical Novel in 2013.

Nixon takes us back to England in 1912 as 17-year-old Lizzy Parker travels north from her home in Plymouth to take up a post as scullery maid to the Cresswell family of Oaklands Manor in Cheshire.

According to Lizzy’s mother, the Cresswells are ‘Cheshire royalty’ and their home is run on rigid rules and a strict pecking order for the servants. It’s a completely new world for Lizzie who grew up in a modest home far away in the West Country.

But a chance meeting with the family heiress Miss Evangeline (Evie) Cresswell is a catalyst for momentous changes for Lizzy. It is the start of an enduring friendship and a new job for Lizzy as Evie’s personal maid.

As Lizzy is drawn into a world of privilege and intrigue, she is also unwittingly thrust into the loving arms of a killer. Meeting the handsome but mysterious war hero Jack Carlisle, Lizzy begins to fall for him despite rumours he had been involved in the death of Evie’s father.

As she becomes further embroiled in the dangerous life that Carlisle lives, she must decide if he can be trusted with the life of a close friend and, ultimately, if he is worth the risk to her own…

Packed with drama, passion and some unexpected twists and turns, this is the perfect story for fans of romance and mystery.

(Piatkus, paperback, £8.99)

Heart and Home by Lyn Andrews

One of the north-west’s most popular storytellers returns with a gripping tale of love, loss and friendship in 1930s Liverpool.

Lyn Andrews is the undisputed queen of the Merseyside saga. Her warm and compelling stories featuring the struggles and hardships faced by working class communities over the last century have made her one of the UK’s best-selling authors.

Here she takes us into the heart of Liverpool where a young girl and her friends find work as shop girls as the city’s future as a shopping centre is taking off.

Cathie Kinrade is all too used to hardship. Growing up in a fishing community in Ramsey on the Isle of Man in the 1930s, she sees her father and brothers set sail daily on dangerous seas while her mother struggles to put food on the table.

Cathie has little hope for her own future until a chance encounter changes her fortunes for ever. Fiercely determined, Cathie leaves for Liverpool, a bustling modern city full of possibility.

With a lively job as a shop girl in Lewis’s, a grand department store, and a firm friend in kind-hearted Julia, Cathie has found her niche. But trouble lies ahead. Cathie must tighten her purse strings and the discovery of an explosive secret could put everything at risk.

And when love comes along, Cathie’s new friends fear that the girl with a sweet face and warm personality may be set to trust the wrong man with her heart. But worse is to come. Tragedy strikes at home and Cathie’s already tumultuous life is thrown into fresh turmoil…

Fast-paced and full of the grit and realism that we have come to expect from Lyn Andrews, Heart and Home is a warm, romantic and addictive saga written with all the charm, spirit and passion of a born storyteller.

(Headline, hardback, £14.99)

Sixpence in Her Shoe by Frances Brody

Frances Brody, author of the popular Kate Shackleton mysteries, whisks us away to the working class streets of Leeds in the tough 1920s in this engrossing tale of courage, loyalty and enduring love.

Brody has her finger firmly on the pulse of what it meant to be a young working class woman fighting poverty and prejudice in a tough city community and this epic new saga is packed with authentic period detail and strong, credible characters.

Jess Price is starting on her journey through life. Growing up in the aftermath of the Great War, she is torn between her downtrodden father, a shoe mender who served with the Leeds Pals Regiment, and her cantankerous, ambitious mother.

For amusement, the imaginative Jess creates alternative fairy tales – mixing glass slippers, seven league boots and red dancing shoes – while submitting to her mother’s strict Catholic upbringing.

Following a disastrous spell as housekeeper to the local priest, she then works happily in the office of her uncle’s shoe factory and falls in love with her childhood soul-mate and adopted cousin Wilf who dreams of being a great artist and sculptor.

Jess can’t bring herself to stand in the way of Wilf’s dreams but soon she finds herself consumed in another big desire… to save her beloved godchild Leila from an orphanage.

But it’s a battle that eventually threatens to break her heart…

Brody’s vibrant cast of characters are all beautifully and sensitively drawn and speak loudly of the family ties that bind us forever.

Warmth, humanity, emotion, romance and drama make a seductive mix…

(Piatkus, paperback, £8.99)

Because of Miss Bridgerton by Julia Quinn

Ever since Georgette Heyer penned her best-selling Regency romances, the ‘goings-on’ of the Georgian period have held a special fascination.

US author Julia Quinn has found a firm and comfortable footing amongst the fast-living fashionable set of England’s greatest and grandest houses.

Her clever and light-hearted novels contain passion, intrigue and humour in equal measures making them the perfect escape for girls who want to find fun in the early 19th century’s risqué romances.

Comedy is the key to Quinn’s continuing success and there is certainly plenty to enjoy as she returns to the world of the Bridgertons, eight alphabetically named siblings, in the first of a new prequel series which takes us back to where it all began.

Everyone expects Billie Bridgerton to marry one of the Rokesby brothers. The two families have been neighbours for centuries and as a child the tomboyish Billie ran wild with Edward and Andrew. Either one would make a perfect husband… some day.

There is only one Rokesby brother Billie absolutely cannot tolerate, and that is George. He may be the eldest heir to the earldom but he is arrogant, annoying, she can’t stand the sight of him and she is absolutely certain he detests her.

But sometimes fate has a wicked sense of humour because when Billie and George are quite literally thrown together, sparks of a different kind begin to fly. And when these lifelong adversaries finally kiss, they discover that the one person they can’t abide is the one person they can’t live without…

An addictive mix of sparkling dialogue, tender romance and moments of laugh-out-loud hilarity give the adventures of Billie and George a light touch and a lively pace.

A wonderful Regency romp for the 21st century woman...

(Piatkus, paperback, £8.99)