Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Review: Daisy and Kate

Title: Daisy and Kate

Author: Meredith Appelyard

Publisher: 30th August 2023 by Harlequin Australia, HQ & MIRA

Pages: 428 pages

Genre: women’s fiction, contemporary

Rating: 5 cups


Friendship lost and found again.

Jealousy destroyed their friendship decades ago, but now they need each other more than ever ... 

Once upon a time Daisy Miller and Kate Hannaford were the best of friends, sharing the woes of shift work and nursing, the delights of days off together in their small country town, and the joys of blossoming romances. They couldn't imagine not being the best of friends. Until they weren't. 

Now bearing down on their 70s, life hasn't gone the way either woman expected. Daisy is back in town, homeless and reduced to couch-surfing at her granddaughter's place. Meanwhile, a recently widowed Kate is facing the harsh reality that the home and lifestyle she worked so hard for is hollow comfort when there's no one to share it with. 

More than three decades have passed since the demise of their friendship. Although neither will admit it, they are lonely and in desperate need of a friend. But they can't agree on anything, most of all what it was that brought about the unravelling of their friendship all those years ago. 

Will Daisy and Kate find it in themselves to finally face the past, rediscover what drew them together in the first place, and forgive each other for how it all went wrong for the sake of a new and lasting friendship? 

A compelling exploration of the waxing and waning of friendships; how precious they are, and the heartbreak that happens when it all comes undone.

My Thoughts

I am just so impressed with how Meredith’s tales just go from strength to strength with each new book. I thought ‘All About Ella’ was so very good but her latest release, ‘Daisy and Kate’ was outstanding and cements Meredith in her genre of writing about women in the latter stages of their life. She nails it and it's so refreshing to see this age bracket getting the attention it deserves.

‘I did my best to ignore the grey hairs and I’d just about given up on losing the extra two or three kilos. I’d been trying to shift them ever since the boys were born and Gareth, the eldest, would be forty-three this year.’

Daisy and Kate is a brilliant book … gosh I enjoyed it! Meredith is part of a group of authors writing tales that involve our aging population and I salute her for shining the spotlight on this undervalued age group. It’s not overly dramatic but packs a punch where it counts with real events and reactions that highlight the vulnerability of the aging and the greed of some families. 

‘After living in blissful solitude in a three-bedroom house for a decade, I discovered I wasn’t as amenable to change as I’d thought I would be. Or wanted to be.’

Told from the points of view of Daisy and Kate, Meredith covers all thoughts and angles seamlessly. You cannot help but admire Daisy’s strength of character yet still her need of support and encouragement to stand strong in the face of adversity. Kate may appear brusque and entitled but as she slowly unravels and then mends herself, the reader’s sympathy for her strengthens. Meredith captures these two leads and, with a strong supporting cast, delivers a story that highlights the many differing challenges that can be faced later in life. 

‘My whole life had been about making ends meet, and too many times they hadn’t.’

I just love how this book makes you think, forces you to examine the value we place on our aging population - giving them the support to make their own choices with family to support and not be dominated. It really is about acknowledging the pursuit of  purpose and living a meaningful life at any age. Meredith places Seniors at the forefront of this novel and mixes in grief, family greed, independent living, homelessness, friendships, forgiveness for past grievances and the often simple daily life moments. She really highlights these issues and the challenges that face many of our older population. 

‘One thing I knew for sure, I didn’t like feeling the way I did: old, and ashamed that I hadn’t provided better for myself.’

Only recently I read an article about older divorced/single women and the plight of finding themselves homeless at a time of their life when such things should not ideally be an issue. Meredith has written a truly wonderful tale full of lovely characters who speak to the reader as their issues are real and relatable. The reflections on life, relationships and friendship are something I highly recommend people to read about. 

‘… did a person ever get too old to make decisions about their care and what happened to them? A decade ago I would have answered with a resounding yes, they did, and at that point families needed to step up and take on the responsibility. At seventy-two, I wasn’t as certain. Ask me again at eighty-two. I had a feeling I might give an entirely different answer.’

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Review: The Wake-Up Call

Title: The Wake-Up Call

Author: Beth O’Leary

Publisher: 26th September 2023 by Hachette Australia & Quercus Books

Pages: 350 pages

Genre: contemporary, romance, chick lit

Rating: 3.5 cups


Two sworn enemies. A failing hotel. One chance to save the season...

It's the busiest season of the year, and Forest Manor Hotel is quite literally falling apart. So when Izzy and Lucas are given the same shift on the hotel's front desk, they have no choice but to put their differences aside and see it through.

The hotel won't stay afloat beyond Christmas without some sort of miracle. But when Izzy returns a guest's lost wedding ring, the reward convinces management that this might be the way to fix everything. With four rings still sitting in lost property, the race is on for Izzy and Lucas to save their beloved hotel - and their jobs.

As their bitter rivalry turns into something much more complicated, Izzy and Lucas begin to wonder if there's more at stake here than the hotel's future. Can the two of them make it through the season with their hearts intact?

My Thoughts

‘All’s fair in love, war and petty workplace feuding, right?’

This opening quote pretty much sums up Beth O’Leary’s upcoming new book. Beth is one of the ‘hot’ authors currently with everything she writes gaining attention. I loved some of her previous books (The No-Show, for me, was phenomenal) as much as I did not love her previous books. Therefore I was nervously excited to read her upcoming, The Wake-Up Call (published 26 September 2023). Once again, this was not the book I expected but in all honesty, I feel it highlights the expansive skill in Beth’s writing - no cardboard cutouts here - every book is that little bit different. 

“… life is too short for rules about what’s cool and what’s not cool; life’s for living. In full HD.”

Here is what I loved about the book:

  • A lighthearted enemies to lovers romcom

  • The setting: Forest Manor Hotel was a great backdrop with endearing secondary characters

  • I enjoyed the ring mysteries with the shenanigans and backstories

  • I really appreciated the two leads individual journey and growth. They are open to learning and appreciating themselves and their relationship differences in order to grow

  • I enjoyed Lucas’ narrative best as he was open and honest from the getgo. 

Here is what I was not too excited about:

  • I feel this was for a younger demographic as at times seemed a bit immature 

  • There were some incredibly childish antics

  • There was an excessive amount of miscommunication

  • It was a little slow in places

  • Whilst Izzy and Lucas ran hot and cold, fun and silly throughout, I felt their relationship was awkward and demeaning in places - they both needed a ‘wake-up call’ (Izzy more so)

  • Overall I was not wowed by it especially after the creativity of The No-Show

The Wake-Up Call was once again different from the last Beth O’Leary book … which was different from the last Beth O’Leary book …. I am beginning to see a pattern! Despite not being the book I had originally predicted, it ended up being solid and enjoyable, sure to appeal to many. I look forward to seeing where Beth will go on her next adventure because I have given up trying to predict. 

‘You’ve got to live every moment and enjoy it.’ 

Lucas tilts his head, saying nothing. I … pause as he says, ‘No, you don’t.’


‘You don’t have to enjoy every moment. Nobody can do that. It would be . . . exhausting.’

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the author in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

Monday, September 25, 2023

Review: The Royal Windsor Secret

Title: The Royal Windsor Secret

Author: Christine Wells

Publisher: 4th October 2023 by HarperCollins Publishers Australia

Pages: 352 pages

Genre: historical fiction

My Rating: 4 cups


Could she be the secret daughter of the Prince of Wales? In this dazzling novel by the author of Sisters of the Resistance, a young woman seeks to discover the truth about her mysterious past. Perfect for readers of Shana Abe, Bryn Turnbull, and Marie Benedict. 

Cleo Davenport has heard the whispers: the murmured conversations that end abruptly the second she walks into a room. Told she was an orphan, she knows the rumor--that her father is none other than the Prince of Wales, heir to the British throne. And at her childhood home at Cairo's Shepheard's Hotel, where royals, rulers, and the wealthy live, they even called her "The Princess."

But her life is turned upside down when she turns seventeen. Sent to London under the chaperonage of her very proper aunt, she's told it's time to learn manners and make her debut. But Cleo's life can't be confined to a ballroom. She longs for independence and a career as a jewelry designer for Cartier, but she cannot move forward until she finds out about her past.

Determined to unlock the truth, Cleo travels from London, back to Cairo, and then Paris, where her investigations take a shocking turn into the world of the Parisian demi-monde, and a high-class courtesan whose scandalous affair with the young Prince of Wales threatened to bring down the British monarchy long before anyone had heard of Wallis Simpson.

My Thoughts

The Royal Windsor Secret is another great addition to Christine’s growing list of historical fiction titles. Two timelines, set between 1935 and 1952, follow the early life of Marguerite and her possible daughter Cleo. The main thread of the book aims to discover who exactly Cleo’s parents are.

‘….why did she still feel like there was a deep fissure inside her, one that could only be filled with the love of her real parents?’

Cleo was abandoned on the steps of a luxury hotel in Cairo and grew up with the rumor that her mother had an affair with the Duke of Windsor. With a story sweeping from Egypt, Portugal, France, and British Isles, Cleo pursues all means possible to uncover who her biological parents were. Wrapped around this are a variety of characters and accompanying storylines ranging from WWII, the Duke’s abdication, the role of women and Cleo’s passion for making jewelry. 

‘…sooner or later, everyone who was anyone - from Mark Twain and Noël Coward to royalty of every nation - came to tea on the terrace at Shepheard’s.’

Christine states that she was inspired by events such as the luxurious Shepheard’s Hotel in Cairo and also the drama surrounding Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson with a particular focus on their time in Portugal during the Second World War. There is also a focus on French courtesan Marguerite Meller and this is one plot line to which I felt was more deserving of more time. Finally, there was a strong focus on high end jewelry and some of Cartier history. Then, finally, a small reference to some military units from WWII. With lots of characters and many plot lines there was no one angle that grabbed me fully. This felt like a lighter version of historical fiction with some interesting inclusions of interest but too many to have one particular appeal. 

 “I don’t know about all that, but if you ask me, the fellow doesn’t seem to want to be King.”

Whilst the main focus of the novel is Cloe's quest for identity, Christine takes a range of threads and possible scenarios to form an interesting story that covers both intriguing topics and locations. Historical fiction lovers are sure to find something to capture their attention.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Every Time We Say Goodbye cover reveal

Here at Great Reads & Tea Leaves we are so pleased to share a first look at a forthcoming historical fiction novel from bestselling author of The Jane Austen Society and Bloomsbury Girls, Natalie Jenner. Every Time We Say Goodbye releases in May 2024, and I am so excited to reveal the first details of the novel and its beautiful cover with you today.

Here is a special message from author Natalie Jenner who shares with us the inspiration of her new novel, followed by the cover reveal, and the official book description from the publisher.


Hello Dear Readers,

Every Time We Say Goodbye was the hardest book I will ever write and the most rewarding.

It all started when I learned about the world famous Cinecittà movie studio in Rome being used as a war refugee camp in the 1940s. People who had been stripped of everything—homes, possessions, even their most basic humanity—suddenly found themselves confined to life inside a “dream factory.” I decided to set my third novel during a very specific, very cool time in history—la dolce vita of mid 1950s Rome— while exploring the incredibly complex and haunting legacy of that city under German occupation during the Second World War.

I also wanted to know why Vivien Lowry, a character from my book Bloomsbury Girls, had been so angry all the time! I wondered if a woman could make the biggest mistake of her life and move past the regret in a way that benefitted her and the world around her. I never intended to write a dual timeline. I had been working on Every Time We Say Goodbye for nearly a year when the voice of a young female Italian resistance fighter codenamed la scolaretta—the schoolgirl assassin—suddenly showed up on the page one day. Having witnessed the bravery and sacrifice of so many to keep us safe during our world’s most recent challenge, I wanted to pay tribute to them. How fortunate am I, through the intimate and emotional power of historical fiction, to have the opportunity to do so.

I packed everything I could into this book: love and conflict, faith and religion, censorship and resistance, art and moviemaking, fashion and food, and cameos by favorite actresses such as Sophia Loren and Ava Gardner and characters from both The Jane Austen Society and Bloomsbury Girls (I, myself am terrible at goodbyes!). 

I hope, more than anything, that Every Time We Say Goodbye gives readers the entertainment, inspiration and food for thought that nourished me throughout its writing.

Best wishes, Natalie



Here it is …. stunning, isn’t it!



The bestselling author of The Jane Austen Society and Bloomsbury Girls returns 

with a brilliant novel of love and art, of grief and memory, of confronting the past 

and facing the future.

In 1955, Vivien Lowry is at a crossroads in life. Her latest play, the only female-authored play on 

the London stage that season, has opened in the West End to rapturous applause from the 

audience. The reviewers, however, are not as impressed as the playgoers and their savage notices 

not only shut down the play but ruin Vivien's last chance for theatrical success. With her future 

in London not looking bright, at the suggestion of her friend, Peggy Guggenheim, Vivien takes a 

job as a script doctor on a major film shooting in Rome’s Cinecittà Studios. There she finds a 

vibrant moviemaking scene filled with rising stars, acclaimed directors, and famous actors in a 

country that is torn between its past and its potentially bright future, between the liberation of 

the post-war cinema and the restrictions of the Catholic Church that permeate the very soul of 


As Vivien tries to forge a new future for herself, she also searches for the long-buried truth of the 

recent World War and the fate of her deceased fiancé lost in battle. Every Time We Say Goodbye

 is a bold and moving exploration of trauma and tragedy, hope and renewal, filled with dazzling 

characters both real and imaginary, from the incomparable author who charmed the world with 

her novels The Jane Austen Society and Bloomsbury Girls.

(Every Time We Say Goodbye is linked to The Jane Austen Society, & Bloomsbury Girlsby 

characters, but is a stand-alone novel.)


• Title: Every Time We Say Goodbye: A Novel
• Author: Natalie Jenner  
• Genre: Historical Fiction
• Publisher: St. Martin's Press (May 14, 2024)
• Length: (336) pages
• Format: Hardcover, eBook, & audiobook

• ISBN: 978-1250285188


Natalie Jenner is the internationally bestselling author of The Jane Austen Society and

 Bloomsbury Girls, which have been translated into more than twenty languages worldwide. 

Born in England and raised in Canada, Natalie has been a corporate lawyer and career coach and 

once owned an independent bookstore in Oakville, Ontario, where she lives with her family and 

two rescue dogs.