Friday, December 30, 2022

Review: The Work Wives

Title: The Work Wives
Author: Rachael Johns

Publisher: 3rd November 2022 by Harlequin Australia, HQ & MIRA

Pages: 528 pages

Genre: contemporary

My Rating: 3 cups


How well do you really know the people you work with?

For work wives Debra and Quinn, it's a case of opposites attract. They are each other's lifelines as they navigate office politics and jobs that pay the bills but don't inspire them.

Outside work, they are also friends, but where Quinn is addicted to dating apps and desperate to find love, Deb has sworn off men. Although Deb is not close to her own mother, her teenage daughter is her life and there's nothing she wouldn't do to protect her. But Ramona has other ideas and is beginning to push boundaries.

Life becomes even more complicated by the arrival of a new man at the office. One woman is attracted to him, while the other hoped she'd never meet him again.

But when Deb, Quinn and Ramona are forced to choose between friends, love and family, the ramifications run deeper than they could ever have expected.

The latest novel by bestselling, ABIA award winning author Rachael Johns will make you laugh, cry and wonder what secrets your friends are keeping!

My Thoughts

‘… why am I wasting my Friday night with this nice but boring, tennis obsessed man, when I could be with my work wife? So here I am.’

The Work Wives  is the latest offering by Aussie favourite Rachel Johns. A story of two friends, one with a daughter, and the impact of secrets. So, there are three first person narratives (one of them being a teen perspective) and this, along with the fact that I expected a story to be revolving around workplace situations, proved not to be quite the read I was expecting. 

I have read and enjoyed many of Rachel’s books but I came away a little disappointed with this one. Whilst I appreciated the overall storyline - two working women and how their friendship provides support through life’s ups and downs - I felt there were a few things that I could not reconcile. There were many themes in this story (bullying, abuse, domestic violence, aging, alzhimers, teen peer pressure, single parenting, online dating, emotional manipulation …. the list goes on) most of which were dependent upon seemingly contrived coincidences. This was a long read and I would have preferred fewer themes dealt with in greater depth. For example, themes of school bullying and domestic violence need to be sensitively and adequately presented. 

I am a long time supporter of Rachel, especially her rural romances, but I found this book did not quite hit the spot for me. Many of her fans are sure to love it, however, I felt too much was undertaken and, despite the book’s length, failed to be appropriately addressed. With a mixture of dark and light themes, The Work Wives is sure to speak to many readers. 

‘That’s what friends are for.’ Deb lifted her glass. ‘Amen. To friendship.’ They clinked and Quinn added, ‘And many, many, many years of it to come.’

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, December 27, 2022

Review: A Cuban Girl's Guide to Tea and Tomorrow

Title: A Cuban Girl's Guide to Tea and Tomorrow
Author: Laura Taylor Namey

Publisher: 30th November 2022 by Simon & Schuster Australia

Pages: 320 pages

Genre: young adult, romance, contemporary 

My Rating: 3.5 cups


Love & Gelato meets Don’t Date Rosa Santos in this charming, heartfelt story following a Miami girl who unexpectedly finds love—and herself—in a small English town.

For Lila Reyes, a summer in England was never part of the plan. The plan was 1) take over her abuela’s role as head baker at their panaderĂ­a, 2) move in with her best friend after graduation, and 3) live happily ever after with her boyfriend. But then the Trifecta happened, and everything—including Lila herself—fell apart.

Worried about Lila’s mental health, her parents make a new plan for her: spend three months with family friends in Winchester, England, to relax and reset. But with the lack of sun, a grumpy inn cook, and a small town lacking Miami flavor (both in food and otherwise), what would be a dream trip for some feels more like a nightmare to Lila…until she meets Orion Maxwell.

A teashop clerk with troubles of his own, Orion is determined to help Lila out of her funk, and appoints himself as her personal tour guide. From Winchester’s drama-filled music scene to the sweeping English countryside, it isn’t long before Lila is not only charmed by Orion, but England itself. Soon a new future is beginning to form in Lila’s mind—one that would mean leaving everything she ever planned behind.

My Thoughts

A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow was a Reese Witherspoon’s YA book club selection and I can see that it has a range of appealing aspects for its genre. There are many great themes in this book - family, grief, friendship, romance and especially a celebration of cultural diversity from both Cuba/Miami and England. 

‘Redeeming myself ? Is that what I was trying to do? Or was I just trying to fix the one crumbled, burned thing in my life I knew for certain I could make right?’

The main character, Lila is grieving from a lost friendship, a lost boyfriend, and the death of her Abuela. This is a story of family and friends, of the places and people that make a place a home and ways to find healing through these things. This is the story of a journey of self discovery. Apart from the obvious expectations, there were some great surprises in this book. I loved Lila’s passion for baking and how she incorporated her culture into her cooking. For a young person to be so proud of her heritage was refreshing. Then there was the contrast between the two cultures of Cuban and English (loved the tea shop) and I felt this was well done. Likewise, it was refreshing to be in Winchester, England.

“Thing is, when you put something back together it’s never exactly the same as it was before. What if she wants to fix things, but it means everything’s different from how you used to get on? Can you do that?”

 This proved a solid YA read with interesting characters and multiple layers to the story. I had a slight issue with the writing style, but otherwise it was a quick read and enjoyable story. A story of love, loss, and reinventing yourself told through good characters, settings and yummy food. 

‘I was brought up for this place, but I can change my life recipe too.’

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.

Friday, December 23, 2022

Review: The Wrong Sister

Title: The Wrong Sister
Author: Fiona Palmer

Publisher: 30th November 2022 by Hachette Australia

Pages: 340 pages

Genre: fiction, romance, contemporary

My Rating: 4.5 cups


Sometimes, your heart knows the truth even before you do. The new page-turning family drama from one of Australia's most popular storytellers.

As she approaches thirty, dedicated nurse Ellen Sutton's life is how she wants it - well, almost. Her younger sister, Carrie, seems to have it all sorted though: a successful hair business, a devoted new boyfriend and a rosy future together. Even Ellen's brother, Bodhi, is settled with his petite, super-chill chef girlfriend, Ingrid. So why does Ellen suddenly give up her career and family for the red dust and toil of an outback cattle station? She's never run from anything before - it's new territory in more ways than one.

But Ellen can't run forever. And a family camping trip to Western Australia's beautiful Karijini country brings the three women together once again.

This trip won't be the dream camping holiday for any of them. But one way or another, it will show them the truth. The Wrong Sister is a heartfelt story about dreams, the importance of family and finding your true self.

As the mystery unravels, will these two women have the chance to take control of their own destinies?

My Thoughts

I am such a fan of Fiona’s books as they are gentle and easy to read, yet at the same time rich with clever undertones that often pack a punch. On this occasion, The Wrong Sister provides a wonderful tale of family and friendships, exploring  the impact of keeping secrets from those nearest and dearest.

‘What if I picked the wrong sister? What if I want you instead?’

Fiona always guarantees a story with strong female leads, a certain amount of camaraderie and the requisite romance that is the icing on top. She investigates through her key leading characters, contemporary issues that are sure to speak to many who read it. So you are in for a treat as there are stories within stories that both engage and entertain her readers. Fiona has a real knack for making the characters so real that you could easily make friends with them yourself, sitting down to have a coffee and a chat. A definite highlight was the rich descriptions of the amazing location in Western Australia - the beautiful Karijini.

‘She had everything and yet felt empty - maybe not empty, as her life was full-on, but something wasn't right. She should be happier. Why was her smile only skin deep?’

I love supporting Aussie authors and Fiona’s books are always so satisfying. From moments that make you smile, to moments that emotionally challenge you, all beautifully blended into a tale of friendship, love, understanding and growth. Fiona makes her readers aware of some heartbreaking issues and peoples vulnerabilities through the range of relationship storylines. However, ultimately she gives us a feel good story that demonstrates that we must appreciate all we are given in this precious life. 

‘We only have one life.’ ‘Exactly. If we don't do what we desire, we'll just live with regret.’

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.

Saturday, December 17, 2022

Review: The Forthright Woman

Title: The Forthright Woman

Author: Darry Fraser

Publisher: 30th November 2022 by Harlequin Australia, HQ & MIRA

Pages: 400 pages

Genre: historical fiction, romance 

My Rating: 4.5 cups


Widow Marcella Ross won't let anything - or anyone - stop her from discovering the truth behind a deadly family mystery ... Mystery and romance collide in this compulsive historical adventure from a bestselling Australian author.

1898, South Australia 

At the gateway to the Flinders Ranges lies Kanyaka Station, once a thriving sheep and cattle property, now abandoned and in ruins. But a discovery in her late mother's papers draws recently widowed Marcella Ross out to its remote landscape in search of clues to the disappearance of her Uncle Luca, an Italian immigrant whose fate seems to have been bound up in that of his mysterious partner - also long-since vanished. When Marcella is nearly run over by a handsome stranger, she discovers he too is entangled in the secrets of the past. When tragedy and obsession threaten Marcella's fragile independence, how far will she have to go to unlock the secrets of Kanyaka - or solve the puzzle of her own future?


After learning that they are unlikely to have children, Frances and Joe MacDonald have taken the unusual step of buying a caravan and travelling together through the outback. They stop and camp at Kanyaka Station, where Fran becomes mesmerised by the past. Family lore holds that an ancestor met an untimely end amid the desolate ruins. But what truly happened, and to whom, at the isolated station? As fate alters the course of her life, Fran's footsteps echo another woman's from so long ago ...

As the mystery unravels, will these two women have the chance to take control of their own destinies?

My Thoughts

Darry Fraser has proven once again why her Australian historical fiction writing is high on the list of must reads. The Forthright Woman is another wonderful tale to immerse yourself in with a strong female lead in male dominated colonial Australia. I love the fact that in each of her novels, Darry takes her female lead and explores with them at a time when women were on the cusp of acquiring some form of independence. Into this Darry can always be relied upon to weave an intriguing mystery with just the right amount of romance.

‘Marcella had strolled around what felt like a vast field of broken dreams. Homes were silent, and the empty rooms within were devoid of memories.’

When you pick up one of Darry’s books, you know you are in for something special. You not only get a rollicking good yarn but also some exceptional research embedded within the tale that takes it to the next level. This time Darry presents a dual timeline, set in 1898 and in 1955 in South Australia. The cast of characters are engaging with a particular nod to Mrs Costa! With great strength, courage and determination, two women embark on life changing journeys. Perhaps Darry’s greatest strength is her richly detailed settings which almost become a character in their own right. Australia’s harsh outback living is on display and life at the turn of the century could be cruel indeed - those opening chapters were brutal. 

‘It was hard enough being born in this country of immigrant stock from the Continent not to mention being a lone woman and coming into hostile territory. Hostile more because she had no husband, not so much because of the weather and terrain.’

Throughout it all Darry provides the reader with a strong historical setting of the day to day living from a time long passed. Issues of female independence are once more put under the spotlight as Darry gives a little taste of what life was like for widowed women who may have wished to retain their independence. In a time when Aussie authors are making their mark in historical dramas, Darry has done a fabulous job with wonderful storytelling, putting herself right up there with the best in these Australian colonial sagas.

‘She bristled. There it was again, that universal assumption that she would just go where the men in her life took her.’

If you like to escape to a time long gone, a time when women attempted to exert some form of independence, all with a dash of mystery and romance, then this will be the book for you. Life wasn’t easy for women who were often regarded as male property and I admired the many strengths of the lead character, Marcella Ross.

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.

Monday, December 12, 2022

Review: Terms of Inheritance

Title: Terms of Inheritance
Author: Michelle Upton

Publisher: 30th November 2022 by HarperCollins Australia

Pages: 350 pages

Genre: contemporary

My Rating: 5 cups


Four sisters. A vast fortune. And a mother who thinks she knows best ...

Where there's a will, there's a way.

A funny, poignant, brilliantly observed story about letting go of the past.

When multi-millionaire Jacki Turner is forced to take stock of her life, she sets her daughters a challenge - in order to inherit her vast fortune, each must fulfil a task that she believes will push them to become better versions of themselves.

Rose, an exhausted mother of three, must write and publish a children's picture book. Exercise-hater Mel must run the Gold Coast marathon. Isla, the eldest, must figure out who she is beyond her wealth and status, while commitment-phobic Jess must stay in a relationship for longer than three months.

For each, Jacki's terms seem an impossible task, bringing painful wounds to the surface and straining tenuous relationships. But when the sisters are faced with an unexpected turn of events, they must learn how to move forward and forgive, or risk losing it all.

My Thoughts

I can’t begin to tell you just how much I enjoyed Michelle’s book! It came as such a fantastic surprise - the more I got into it, the more difficult it became to put down. I found it to be the perfect blend of reality and life lessons with a splash of humour. Terms of Inheritance is a book I would highly recommend and couldn’t wait to share with friends. 

‘And so, in a last-ditch attempt to be the best mother I can be, there will be conditions on the inheritance of my fortune. You'll each have one year to complete the task I've set for you. Each task has been designed for you alone, to push you to be the best version of yourself. Should any of you fail, you will all fail, and my vast fortune will be left to Aussie Animal Rescue.’

A story about five women, Jacki the wealthy family matriarch, who sets challenges for her daughters in order for them to inherit her fortune. With the aim to make them better people, all four siblings must complete the tasks in order to inherit. The eldest, Isla must do some soul searching beyond her current wealth; Rose, a busy mother, must write a children’s book; Mel must complete a marathon; and Jess needs to stay in a relationship for longer than three months. 

‘Just because you're ticking all the boxes doesn't mean there's nothing missing. Mum gave us these conditions for a reason - maybe you should think about what that reason is.’

In my interview with Michelle (see the blog) she wrote how writing Terms of Inheritance allowed her to reflect on the many lessons she had learnt from life and the growth that ensued. I actually loved each of the women equally and the journey of growth they went on through both the internal and external challenges - even Jackie’s. 

‘I want you to be pushed out of your comfort zone. I want you to question what it is you really care about. I want you to ask yourselves: who are you right now, and who is it you want to be? … You need to question everything you're doing so you can make changes now, before it's too late. I don't want you to get to the end of your life and have regrets.’

There is just so much to takeaway from this book on how families, despite all the love, can be the most complicated and challenging of relationships. Yet, for me however, Michelle’s tale spoke loudly about stepping out of your comfort zone in order to experience real growth. That you have to let go of what you know in order for life to happen to you - challenge you, exhaust you, reward you. 

‘The tasks I’ve asked of you aren’t easy, but growing into your true self is supposed to be hard. That’s the point. The doubts, the missteps, they're part of the journey. The times you fail are the most important, because that's when you're broken open and where you really get the chance to move beyond what you thought was possible.’

This is a truly wonderful story - so real and relatable. A story of how people can show love in its many forms especially when it comes to families. That letting go, forgiving and moving on are crucial and that your life’s attitude can determine so much. Terms of Inheritance …. read it. You won’t regret it. 

‘We should make a toast to Mum.' 'You're right, said Isla, and she raised her glass. ‘To Mum, and her bloody terms of inheritance.’

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.

Monday, December 5, 2022

Review: The Christmas Trip

Title: The Christmas Trip
Author: Sandy Barker

Publisher: 10th November 2022 by HarperCollins UK, One More Chapter

Pages: 392 pages

Genre: romance, Christmas

My Rating: 3 cups


Another year has passed and it’s Christmas again. This year best friends Chloe, Jules and Lucy are all loved up but living worlds apart.

Chloe is madly in love with her celebrity beau, Archer, but after a whirlwind year in Hollywood’s limelight, she’s desperate to get away and spend some quality time together.

Jules loves her Melbourne life – and gorgeous winemaker Matt – but a crowded flat share has her longing for a place of her own.

Meanwhile, Lucy is stuck in a long distance relationship, jetting back and forth between Colorado and London to see Will.

When Archer’s plan to whisk Chloe to Paris goes awry, he surprises her by bringing her friends together for a Christmas to remember…

The perfect feel-good holiday romance for fans of Sarah Morgan, Jo Thomas and Holly Martin.

My Thoughts

It’s that time of year to prepare for Christmas and lose yourself in a little romance. The Christmas Trip might just be the answer to get you in the mood. With family and friends, love and laughter it is sure to fill your festive bucket.

‘Operation “Best Christmas Ever” has now begun!’

The Christmas Trip is a sequel to The Christmas Swap (which I just loved!) and we find ourselves reunited with Chloe, Jules and Lucy. Not having seen much of each other in the past twelve months, this is the trip to bring the gang together. It is much more a character driven tale rather than a thematically Christmas one. The Christmas Trip can be read as a standalone but reading the first book (which I found more entertaining and would recommend) would enrich readers' experiences.

‘Christmas Eve! Chloe loved this day almost as much as Christmas itself. It was a day filled, not only with its own traditions, but with anticipation of what was to come, a feeling that had carried over from childhood - ‘Santa’s coming!’ morphing into something more adult, but no less potent.’

I feel this one lacked the same level of Christmas feels that the first book had. With only one setting in Hawaii this time around (and I’m all for summery Christmas books living in Australia!) it just lacked the appeal of the first book. This is a more drama filled, character driven tale and I found some of the actions and dialogue of characters to be somewhat juvenile that took away some of the appeal for older readers. 

‘Christmas wasn’t tied to the weather, it was about the people you shared it with.’

All up a fun, beach read type of book with a focus on relationships as opposed to Christmas action - although time spent in Hawaii is a bonus. With friendship at the heart of this tale it is recommended for those who loved spending time with the three girls from the first book. 

‘I know this isn’t the Christmas you imagined.’ ‘It’s not but we’re all here together, so that’s what matters.’

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.