Review of ‘Changing Seasons’ by BJ Phillips.

This is book 3 of the ‘Seasons’ series by this author but can be read as a standalone. It catches up with the lives of the three couples introduced in the previous books of the series, two in their late 30s or early 40s and one in their 60s. The plot mainly follows two couples. Andi and Kelly and how they cope with overwork and lack of time to develop their relationship, and Elise and Lauren, both in their mid 60s who are taking their time to move their connection forward.

The story has all the ingredients for an entertaining romance with enough conflict and a meaningful scenes. However, the overall tone of the novel is too cheerful even when the characters face a problem which for me it was a bit disconcerting.

There is a very good balance between show and tell with lots of dialogues to set out the conflicts and their resolutions. However, my main issue with this book is that all characters seem to have the same voice despite their differences in age, profession and class. As a result, the dialogues don’t sound natural and realistic. Having said that, the older couple intimate scene is well done and feels authentic. Kudos to the author to present a couple in their 60s as main characters which is rare in lesfic.

Overall, a good romance novel presenting an older couple. 3.5 stars.

ARC provided to me in exchange for an honest review.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Review of ‘Full English’ by Rachel Spangler.

Emma Volant is an American best-selling author that, after a nasty divorce, decides to leave the US for a small town in North Eastern England. Full of insecurities and low self esteem, she slowly starts to interact with people in the village, specially Brogan McKay, the pub’s bartender and job multitasker. As Emma and Brogan’s friendship grows so does their mutual attraction, but, Emma needs time to heal and Brogan thinks Emma is out of her league. Will they have a happily ever after?

According to the author, this book was conceived after Ms. Spangler and her family spent 9 months living in the north east of England. In her notes, the author described the challenges of writing a book set in England with American and English main characters. As a reader based in Northern Ireland, I appreciate her efforts to explain her spelling choices and pronunciation guidelines for the otherwise perplexing Irish names. I’ve heard so many times people butchering my sons’ Irish names that her endeavour is appreciated.

This book is as much a romance as a crash course in British culture. The author goes beyond highlighting the obvious differences in spellings and regional words and opens up a world of different types of food, habits and social conventions. I found that Ms. Spangler researched the issue well and I found her descriptions of the landscape, the weather and social classes’ issues very realistic. As a foreigner in the UK, I concur with Emma’s problems while driving on the left side and her newfound love for scones and clotted cream!

Written in third person from the point of view of both main characters, I found the book slow in developing the romance mainly because there are a good number of secondary characters and a whole set of cultural differences that needed to be introduced. Some readers who aren’t interested in the clash of cultures or life in small towns might find the pace of the romance too slow. However, once the romance part of the story starts developing, their personal issues and their conflict is realistic and credible.

Having said that, while in most of the book both characters voiced their feelings so well, the later stages of their conflict felt a bit forced. The secondary characters are well rounded, even considering that there were lots of them. While I recognise the ubiquitous gossip of small towns, I’m not convinced that the meddling in the mains’ love life is characteristic of British or Irish families. The McKays might be an exception but, in my experience, I find that both British and Irish people, while they love their gossip, they tend not to voice or meddle with other people’s affairs. That’s my only criticism in the depiction of British and Irish cultures as I found that the rest was spot-on.

Overall, a very good story about American and British culture clash with a moving romance at the side. 4.5 stars.

ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Review of ‘Thorn’ by Anna Burke.

Rowan is the daughter of a merchant who unknowingly gives her a cursed rose taken during an ill-fated hunting trip. The rose was in a land of eternal winter inhabited by a mysterious woman called the Huntress. Furious at the merchant for killing her wolves and stealing her rose, the Huntress irrupts into the merchant’s house and takes the rose back along with Rowan. Trapped in the Huntress’s realm of eternal winter and curse, Rowan will have to choose between her family loyalties and her growing feelings for the Huntress.

Following my new year resolution to read more books out of my comfort zone, I chose a genre that I seldom read: fantasy. ‘Thorn’ is a retelling of ‘Beauty and the Beast’. In this novel, according to the author, bravery and not beauty defines Beauty. As in her previous book ‘Compass Rose’ Ms. Burke is very poetic in her metaphors, this time changing naval comparisons for winter ones. Her depiction of the freezing landscape with its vast gamut of whites, menacing beasts and dimmed sunlight acts as an ideal backdrop to this beautiful story.

This novel is written in first person from the point of view of Rowan except for a few short sections written in third person point of view from the Huntress. Both main characters are well-rounded and believable and the reader cannot help but feel the pain of both: the Huntress as a victim of her own arrogance and Rowan as a casualty of her father’s weakness. Underneath lies a heavy criticism to the patriarchal system, in which women are traded as goods in the name of their fathers’ interests, and the confict between family loyalties and a woman’s search for true love.

‘A rose for a rose, a thorn for a thorn’. With each repetition of this mantra, the reader sees this phrase in a different light. The tone of this novel shifts back-and-forth from poetic and romantic as a rose, to hurting and heartbreaking as a thorn. Similarly, the pace changes from slow-burn romance to fast paced thriller. This book has been a pleasure to read and shows that Anna Burke is quickly becoming more than a promising writer.

Overall, a very good lesfic retelling of the classic ‘Beauty and the Beast’. A tale of suffering, bravery and love conquering all. 5 stars.

ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com