Friday, September 8, 2017

Coming Soon!

Review: Secrets Between Friends

Title: Secrets Between Friends
Author: Fiona Palmer
Publisher: 12 September 2017 by Hachette Australia
Pages: 368 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: fiction, contemporary romance
My Rating: 3.5 cups


Friendship is a million little moments, but can it survive this one? Three friends embark on a luxury cruise to celebrate their ten-year reunion in this heartfelt story of how long-held secrets can catch up with even the best of friends

Life was about living, experiencing and emotions. The good and the bad. You had to laugh to cry. You had to love to hurt. You had to jump to fall or fly.

Best friends Abbie, Jess and Ricki are set to recreate a school trip they took ten years earlier to the historic port town of Albany, the oldest city on the stunning turquoise coastline of Western Australia.

Ricki, a dedicated nurse, harbours a dream she hasn't chased. Is she actually happy or stuck in a rut?

Jess, a school teacher and single mother to little Ollie, had a tough upbringing but found her way through with the help of her closest male friend, Peter. But Peter has bought an engagement ring and is ready to propose to Ricki . . .

Abbie had it all: a career, a loving boyfriend and a future, but a visit to the doctor bears scary news. Her world is tumbling down and she feels adrift at sea.

SECRETS BETWEEN FRIENDS is a poignant novel of romance, family dynamics and friendship. Through her highly relatable, sympathetic characters, beloved Australian storyteller Fiona Palmer writes about issues, experiences and emotions we have all faced while posing the ultimate question: What is really important in this life?

My Thoughts

I was keen to sample Fiona Palmer’s first time dalliance out of her ‘rural romance’ genre. Here is a tale of best friends, Jess, Abbie and Ricki (and Ricki's boyfriend, Peter) who decide to take a three-day cruise down the coast of Western Australia. As the title of the book indicates, there most definitely are some very serious ‘secrets between friends’ that all come to a head during this short cruise. Will their long term friendship be able to withstand the revelations and confrontations that, in the confines of ship life, there will be no escape from?

Once again I reveled in the setting - Australia - and this time, sailing on a familiar cruise line. As the girls and Peter make the most of life onboard the ship and the trip to Albany and back, there was much to enjoy. Being a ‘cruiser’ myself, I found the descriptions realistic and accurate. For those of you in any way interested in cruising, this gives a lovely little insight into life onboard.

‘Gee, they really pack a lot of events into a day aboard the ship don’t they?’

‘... that was life on the ship. You could partake in all the activities, some or none.’

The concept of secrets amongst friends is not a new one, however, I just found their tiffs and selfishness difficult to swallow at times. Sadly, I didn’t really enjoy the characters that much because of it.

‘Problems going on with my friends. Secrets and indiscretions, surprises.’ She shrugged.
‘We came here to celebrate, but today all we’ve done is yell at each other.’

Each of the girls have personal issues to contend with from the desire to follow a dream, to single motherhood, to health concerns. So there is much to relate to and it was interesting to see how events played out. I appreciated the realism and how confrontational certain aspects were presented and handled. I am sure that many of Fiona Palmer's fans will enjoy taking a trip alongside the three friends and appreciate that life is not always smooth with bonds often being stretched to breaking point.

‘Life can seem great one minute and then a shit-hole mess the next. What do we do, Abbie?’
‘We do the only thing we can do. Live each day as it comes, try to be good people while pursuing happiness.’
It sounded easy. But it wasn’t.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Review: The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club

Title: The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club
Author: Sophie Green
Publisher: 8 August  2017 by Hachette Australia
Pages: 384 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: women’s fiction, contemporary, outback Australia
My Rating: 4.5 crowns

Books bring them together - but friendship will transform all of their lives. Five very different women come together in the Northern Territory of the 1970s by an exceptional new Australian author.
In 1978 the Northern Territory has begun to self-govern. Cyclone Tracy is a recent memory and telephones not yet a fixture on the cattle stations dominating the rugged outback. Life is hard and people are isolated. But they find ways to connect.
Sybil is the matriarch of Fairvale Station, run by her husband, Joe. Their eldest son, Lachlan, was Joe's designated successor but he has left the Territory - for good. It is up to their second son, Ben, to take his brother's place. But that doesn't stop Sybil grieving the absence of her child. With her oldest friend, Rita, now living in Alice Springs and working for the Royal Flying Doctor Service, and Ben's English wife, Kate, finding it difficult to adjust to life at Fairvale, Sybil comes up with a way to give them all companionship and purpose: they all love to read, and she forms a book club.
Mother-of-three Sallyanne is invited to join them. Sallyanne dreams of a life far removed from the dusty town of Katherine where she lives with her difficult husband, Mick. Completing the group is Della, who left Texas for Australia looking for adventure and work on the land.
If you loved The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society, The Little Coffee Shop Of Kabul and The Thorn Birds you will devour this story of five different women united by one need: to overcome the vast distances of Australia's Top End with friendship, tears, laughter, books and love.
My Thoughts

‘I’m starting a book club –well, that’s obvious.’ She gestured to the paper. ‘We’re all a bit isolated out here, aren’t we? It’s good to have some other people to talk to.’

The blurb had me with ‘book club’ and ‘Thorn Birds’, however, there is so much more to this little gem of a read. Set in the unique time and place - Northern Territory, Australia 1978 - it provides the reader with a realistic portrayal of life on the land in one of the most remote locations of a vast continent; and, how five women form a friendship that began with a love of books but evolved to so much more that saw them bond through good and bad times.

‘You like to read?’ Sybil said, stopping before they reached the table. Sallyanne nodded vigorously. ‘I love it,’ she said. ‘It’s my escape.

Yes, there are some fabulous reads made mention of here and the women’s discussion of the books (not too detailed) evolves into a wider conversation of events that arise in their own lives. Books from ‘The Thorn Birds’ to ‘We of the Never Never’ to ‘Harp in the South’ bring back memories of some classic Australian literature. Add to that the list of real life dates and events that occurred at various stages throughout the telling of this tale - for example: ‘The compact disc is demonstrated in public for the first time, by Phillips’ - will bring a smile to your face as you recall what age you were at these selected occasions.

Next thing to mention is the ‘Outback’ itself - the Northern Territory. The huge distances, the overpowering sense of isolation, the impact of climate and weather, concerning life on a station (ranch). Sophie Green brings all of this to life, as you can clearly envisage the array of practicalities to living so remotely, whether it concern supplies or medical emergencies.

The five female leads are true and strong, each bringing their own unique story to this tale. This is a story of friendship and learning to trust over some truly difficult and challenging circumstances - accidents, illnesses, wet season inaccessibility, domestic violence, isolation - all credible and realistic situations. It’s through the bond they form that makes life that little bit easier.

‘Books give us the benefit of a lot of people’s experiences,’ she said slowly. ‘They give us more options to choose from –more ways to live –than we could ever find on our own.’

Overall this was a joy to read. You become really invested in the characters, appreciating each of the generational challenges and how together, at a time of no internet and difficult communication, they were able to create true and lasting friendships.  I encourage you to ....

“put the kettle on to boil and to hold the inaugural meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club.”

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release

Friday, August 25, 2017

Review: Beautiful Messy Love

Title: Beautiful Messy Love: for a bit of Nicholas Sparks with a pinch of Offspring
Author: Tess Woods
Publisher: 1 August  2017 by HarperCollins Publishers Australia
Pages: 432 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: fiction, contemporary romance
My Rating: 4.5 cups


What happens when love and loyalty collide? Two couples must deal with the consequences of their messy love not just for themselves but for those who depend on them. For lovers of passionate romance in the vein of Nicholas Sparks.

When football star Nick Harding hobbles into the Black Salt Cafe the morning after the night before, he is served by Anna, a waitress with haunted-looking eyes and no interest in footballers famous or otherwise. Nick is instantly drawn to this exotic, intelligent girl. But a relationship between them risks shame for her conservative refugee family and backlash for Nick that could ruin his career.
Meanwhile, Nick's sister, Lily, is struggling to finish her medical degree. When she meets Toby, it seems that for the first time she is following her heart, not the expectations of others. Yet what starts out as a passionate affair with a man who has just buried his wife slips quickly into dangerous dependency.
Through attraction, breakups, triumphs and tragedies, these two couples learn just how much their beautiful messy love might cost. A West Side Story for the modern day.

My Thoughts

This book is receiving great acclaim and I can see why. Divided into three parts, with alternating character chapters, you are provided with great insight into each of the four main leads and how their lives are entwined. With everything from an AFL (Australian Rules Football) Grand Final to asylum seekers - this book truly has it all.

At its heart this is a book that puts a microscope on contemporary Australian living with its honest portrayal of not only multiculturalism, but also drawing attention to the ugly side of social media. Tess Woods gives honest accounts on diversity, prejudice and religion - so very topical and handled so well. Her serious exploration of contemporary issues  are not only wide ranging, but heartfelt and compassionate. Woods shines the light on everything from the plight of asylum seekers, privacy issues in this digital ‘tell all’ age, cross cultural relationships, religious bigotry and the debilitation of depression on all those who come in contact with it.

‘This is the worst situation ever.’
‘It is,’ I agreed.
‘I don’t know how we can make this work. It’s too messy.’
‘I don’t know either, but I know that I really want to try.’

Yes, this is also a tale of two love stories, but Woods definitely strikes a balance between that and the social spotlight investigation. In keeping with the social realist approach, the love here is real with its ‘warts and all’ approach covering not only the joy and passion, but also the loss and heartache. The array of supporting characters, the detail provided to their stories, is also demonstrative of how each has a role to play, adding real depth and support to each of the many themes.

The title could not be more apt - this is a book where the central theme is about finding your way in life, navigating as best you can because it’s not always smooth - it’s messy! Complex! But also, it can be very beautiful!

‘Let me tell you something important –it is better to be a fool who experiences happiness than a genius who misses out.’

This is a powerful and thought provoking book with its contemporary focus on the messiness of life and having strength of character to stay the course, grow and develop despite what others may claim. It’s beautiful, it’s messy, it’s love.

The love I had for the people who surrounded me and the way I loved those I had lost was messy –it was complicated, difficult and sometimes unbearably painful. But that didn’t make it any less beautiful.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Review: Persuading Austen

Title: Persuading Austen
Author: Brigid Coady
Publisher: 18 July  2017 by HQ Digital
Pages: 384 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: women’s fiction, contemporary, romance
My Rating: 3.5 cups

It is a truth universally acknowledged that working with an ex is a terrible idea…
Annie Elliot never expected her life to turn out this way: living with her dad, working as an accountant – surely the least glamorous job in Hollywood?! – and dodging her family’s constant bickering.
Landing a job as a producer on a new adaptation of Pride and Prejudice seems like the piece of luck she’s been waiting for. Until the cast is announced, and Annie discovers that the actor playing Mr Darcy is Austen Wentworth: the man she’s spent nearly a decade trying to forget.
Not only is Austen her ex – but while Annie’s life has stalled, Austen is Hollywood’s hottest property…and has just been voted World’s Sexiest Man.
With nowhere to hide, there’s just one question. Now the one who got away has come back, should Annie stand by her pride? Or give into Austen’s powers of persuasion?
My Thoughts

‘Who are you living for, Anne? You or them?’ She could still hear Austen saying it. And she knew that he meant it because he called her Anne. And she still couldn’t answer that question eight years later.’

Anything ‘Austen’ captures my attention, so this book came on my radar and what a bit of fun it proved to be - a great and much needed weekend escape. A modern retelling of Jane Austen’s ‘Persuasion’ with a touch of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ thrown in for good measure.

One aspect I particularly enjoyed was how the author kept most of the key scenes from the original but put a contemporary twist on them. The storyline was most definitely recognisable, yet Coady did not let it dominate. I loved the ending and how everything was nicely bought together - yes the romance - but with the two leads only trading a few lines in real time (there are flashbacks), it was more about the lead character and her journey. Her success in life was her decisions - not a knight in shining armour - so you witnessed her grow and discover her own voice.

‘Over eight years what had she learned? Nothing. Not one single thing except how to keep on allowing her family to squeeze and mould her into the gaps in their lives. She hadn’t been living; she had been merely existing.’

Being ‘chick lit’ you have to make some concessions. For example, the family will grate on your nerves (‘Sometimes she felt like David Attenborough hiding in the undergrowth, and trying to work out what made them tick’), Annie’s inner dialogue will make you want to shake her at times and some parts are just way out of the ball park - three words for you who will read it - My Little Pony! Wow! At times a bit repetitive - I would love to know on how many occasions the author wrote ‘eight years ago’ - GAH! However, you have to take the good with the bad and it being so light and entertaining compensated for these drawbacks.

This was a fun read. I appreciated the Austen references eg. ‘Northanger Agency’ and there are some funny moments with enough romance but not overbearingly so. I found it to be fast-paced, whizzing through it over a weekend - pure fun and escapism.

‘ You are too generous to trifle with me. If your feelings are still what they were last April, tell me so at once. My affections and wishes are unchanged, but one word from you will silence me on this subject for ever…’

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release

Friday, August 11, 2017

Review: The One That Got Away

Title: The One That Got Away
Author: Melissa Pimentel
Publisher: 22 August  2017 by St. Martin’s Press
Pages: 352 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: women’s fiction, contemporary, romance
My Rating: 3 cups

'A smart, funny retelling of Jane Austen's Persuasion that's perfect for a poolside read' Red
Ruby and Ethan were perfect for each other. Until the day they suddenly weren't.
Now, ten years later, Ruby is single, having spent the last decade focusing on her demanding career and hectic life in Manhattan. There's barely time for a trip to England for her little sister's wedding. And there's certainly not time to think about what it will be like to see Ethan again, who just so happens to be the best man.
But as the family frantically prepare for the big day, Ruby can't help but wonder if she made the right choice all those years ago. Because there is nothing like a wedding for stirring up the past . . .
My Thoughts

“Here I was, jet-lagged as all hell, standing in a sixteenth-century pub in the middle of nowhere and giving my ex-boyfriend advice on how to spend his magnificent fortune . . . it was all a bit much.”

I snapped this read up hoping for some modern Austen escapism. From a chick lit perspective it was okay, however, I found the Austen link hard to determine and justify. It’s a pleasant enough read, if a little underwhelming, failing to hit the mark in the spark and romance area. I do not feel that the author truly set the scene in both explaining and capturing the depth of emotion to make it fully engaging and at times, was somewhat silly with the female lead jealous of a dead person!

The structure of the book didn’t quite gel either. Ruby and Ethan’s stories told in two time lines - now and then - was fragmented and difficult to keep track of and didn’t really work for me. It’s not a badly narrated story,  just lacking excitement and pizzazz. There are some worthwhile humourous moments that brought a smile to my face:

“I’d taken myself to see Frozen on a particularly dark day back in January and had found myself sobbing uncontrollably during “Let It Go”

As a modern telling of “Persuasion” (by Jane Austen) it is a bit of a stretch -“second chance” romance is the only real tenuous link. Although a reasonably well-written book, I found it lacking in quite a few areas. Overall, a was nice, light read.

“But here’s the thing that I’d realized: I sort of hated my life. Not entirely—pieces of it were great—but I’d been living on autopilot for too long, wearing grooves in the sidewalk between work and home.”

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Review: Together

Title: Together
Author: Julie Cohen
Publisher: 11 July 2017 by Hachette/Orion
Pages: 336 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: fiction, romance
My Rating: 4 cups


This is not a great love story.
This is a story about great love.

On a morning that seems just like any other, Robbie wakes in his bed, his wife Emily asleep beside him, as always. He rises and dresses, makes his coffee, feeds his dogs, just as he usually does. But then he leaves Emily a letter and does something that will break her heart. As the years go back all the way to 1962, Robbie's actions become clearer as we discover the story of a couple with a terrible secret - one they will do absolutely anything to protect.

Perfect for fans of Jojo Moyes's Me Before You, David Nicholls's One Day and M L Stedman's The Light Between Oceans.

My Thoughts

‘He thinks about you every day. He doesn’t talk about you every day, but sometimes we don’t talk about the most important things to us. Sometimes we can’t.’

Do books often come along at a poignant time in a person’s life? This is such an interesting little book on so many platforms. It is well written and thought provoking, as it shines a light on relationships and family dynamics. However, let me say right from the outset, this is not a soppy, teary book because of romance - there is so much more involved in this little story that really packs a punch.

‘No. I think it’s most likely Alzheimer’s.’ She was brave. Her voice didn’t waver at all when she said it.’

‘Sometimes people just have to stay distant,’ she said.’

‘Emily stepped forward, feeling, for the first time, a stirring of anger at her own family.’

It took me a little while to get into this book. I had to put it down and come back to it a week later, as I did not think I was in the right frame of mind to read it. Starting with a devastating event, I was unsure if I was up for the journey. However, it all changed after a couple of chapters and I shall tell you why.

The book is written backwards. Highly unusual and requires flicking back and forth as the brain does not really compute that way. But really, when you think about it, it is probably the only way this tale could be told. From a writing perspective, it is quite incredible and most definitely unique - at the end you want to go back to the beginning and read it over with fresh eyes.

The author presents Robbie and Emily at key stages of their lives, commencing at 2016 until the final date of 1962 - which is of course, the beginning and when they first met. Each stage reveals a little more of the story, but also leaves with you with questions. There are twists and turns along the way, and the ending .... wow .... I did not see that coming. Then, and only then, do all the pieces fall into place regarding Emily and why she is estranged from her family. The ‘mystery’ that had been hovering over story up until this moment is revealed.

Overall, this is an unusual book, for both the way it is set out and the issues it tackles. Try not to let that distract you from what is in fact, a most thought provoking tale.

‘Sometimes we don’t know the moments that are going to be significant to us, not until later when we look back and reflect.’

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release

Friday, August 4, 2017

Review: Court of Lions

Title: Court of Lions
Author: Jane Johnson
Publisher: 6 July 2017 by Head of Zeus
Pages: 500 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: historical fiction, cultural Spain
My Rating: 3.5 cups


"Kate Fordham, escaping terrible trauma, has fled to the beautiful sunlit city of Granada, the ancient capital of the Moors in Spain, where she is scraping by with an unfulfilling job in a busy bar. One day in the glorious gardens of the Alhambra, once home to Sultan Abu Abdullah Mohammed, also known as Boabdil, Kate finds a scrap of paper hidden in one of the ancient walls. Upon it, in strange symbols, has been inscribed a message from another age. It has lain undiscovered since before the Fall of Granada in 1492, when the city was surrendered to Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand. Born of love, in a time of danger and desperation, the fragment will be the catalyst that changes Kate's life forever.

An epic saga of romance and redemption, Court of Lions brings one of the great turning-points in history to life, telling the stories of a modern woman and the last Moorish sultan of Granada, as they both move towards their cataclysmic destinies."

My Thoughts

I was drawn to this book as I do enjoy a good dual narrative. However, it would appear that the only thing these two stories had in common was geography. We live in a time of upheaval and this story sought to make a (tenuous) link between the fears and prejudices that have always simmered in societies, both present and past - even making reference to the Charlie Hebdo atrocity.

There is no doubt whatsoever the amount of research the author has put into this work. I did not really know that much about the the Granada War of the 1400’s, the culture or the people who existed at that time. Namely, the rise and fall of Abu Abdullah Mohammed, the last Islamic ruler of this empire. Jane Johnson certainly brought to life everything from the architecture and gardens, to the food and culture - from the highest to the lowest members of society. The focus is on the power struggles between Queen Isabella of Spain and her plan to remove the Muslim and Jewish people in her efforts to gain control of Granada. Full of treachery and violence, the vivid descriptions place you right at the heart of the struggle.

The modern day story was not as appealing.  The author even made mention that:

“I wanted to tell his personal story, as well as recount the great sweep of events leading up to the fall. The book was shaping up to be a straightforward historical epic...”

... and in some respects it should have remained so, as Kate’s story was a rather disconnected and weak link. If it was to have worked, there needed to be far more substantial links between the two storylines. Shared subtle and hard to pinpoint themes, were not enough, as the mystery surrounding the hidden paper Kate found, eventuated into nothing of  any real importance.

Overall, it is a well written and interesting read, the product of extensive research. The story of 15th century Granada was noteworthy, if at times, a little drawn out. If you are a reader looking for something unique with an inside view of both historical and modern religious eccentricities, then this would be the book for you.

“Sometimes surrender is more courageous than resistance. But it’s hard for people to see that.”

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Review: Tiny House on the HIll

Title: Tiny House on the Hill (A Tiny House Novel)
Author: Celia Bonaduce
Publisher: 15 August 2017 by Kensington Books, Lyrical Press.
Pages: 304 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: Women's Fiction
My Rating: 3.5 cups


Home is where the heart fits . . .

Summer Murray is ready to shake things up. She doesn’t want to work in risk management. She doesn’t want to live in Hartford, Connecticut. So she plans a grand adventure: she’s going to throw out all the stuff she doesn’t want and travel the country in her very own tiny house house shaped like a train caboose. Just Summer, her chihuahua-dachshund Shortie, and 220 square feet of freedom.

Then her take-no-prisoners grandmother calls to demand Summer head home to the Pacific Northwest to save the family bakery. Summer has her reasons for not wanting to return home, but she’ll just park her caboose, fix things, and then be on her way. But when she gets to Cat’s Paw, Washington, she’s shocked by her grandmother’s strange behavior and reunited with a few people she’d hoped to avoid. If Summer is going to make a fresh start, she’ll have to face the past she’s been running from all along . . . 

My Thoughts:

One day, Clarissa (Summer) Murray finds herself at a cross roads in her life (instigated by the accidental shrinking of a cashmere jumper of all things!) and decides to quit her risk management job, downsize her life, and hit the road with her dog, Shortie, in a caboose shaped Tiny House, with grand plans to make and sell home-made purses at craft markets across the country.

Just before Summer embarks upon her adventure she is contacted by her irascible Grandmother Queenie, who demands she return to Cat’s Paw Washington to help save the family bakery, Dough Z Dough. Even though she is reluctant to face the people she left behind Summer decides to make Cat’s Paw the first stop on her adventure so that she can fix what needs fixing and then move on to her life on the road.  After collecting her new home from the intriguing and attractive tiny house designer/builder Bale (the king of mixed messages and “maybe” flirting!) Summer’s trip across country provides a number of amusing insights for the reader into the life of the tiny house traveller. From dealing with surly tiny-house-hating RV park operators, unravelling the intricacies involved with the proper Walmart over-night parking etiquette, and accepting the difficulties of parking the whole rig to do a spot of shopping, the reader follows Summer's journey as she makes her way back home.  There, parked in her snug little home atop her favourite hill, she must not only come to terms with all the issues that she had turned her back on years before, she must also make some decisions about her first love vs. the new-comer vying for her affections.

A story of second chances, growth and acceptance, Tiny House on the Hill is a charming read that cleverly taps into the reader’s curiosity about the life and travels of the Tiny House community. Let’s face it, haven’t we all watched the Tiny House reality TV shows and thought to ourselves …..”why not me?”. While for me, the romantic resolution wasn't as satisfying as I like, it was overall, a delightful story and I look forward to reading more by this author.  A solid 3.5 stars from me!

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Review: Royally Romanov

Title: Royally Romanov
Author: Teri Wilson
Publisher: 17 July 2017 by Gallery, Threshold, Pocket Books.
Pages: 304 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: romance
My Rating: 4.5 cups

In this charming modern day retelling of the 1956 classic Anastasia, a museum curator falls for a mysterious man who may or may not be a long lost heir to Russia’s imperial Romanov dynasty.

Finley Abbot is organizing the most prestigious art exhibit of her career at the Louvre museum—a retrospective of art from the House of Romanov. But the sudden appearance of Maxim Romanov threatens to turn her into the biggest laughingstock of the art world. When she finds herself falling in love, she realizes there’s even more at stake than her career. How can she trust a man with her whole world when he can’t remember a thing about his past?

After suffering a violent blow to the head, Maxim’s only clue to his identity is a notebook containing carefully researched documentation in his own handwriting indicating that he is the sole surviving descendant of the Grand Duchess Anastasia, previously thought dead in the murder of her family during Russia’s Bolshevik revolution. His struggle to put the mysterious pieces of his past back together leads him to Finley. At first, she’s convinced Maxim is nothing but a con artist. But there’s something undeniably captivating about the beautiful, brooding man who claims to be searching for his identity—something Finley can’t quite bring herself to resist. When he reveals a secret about one of the imperial FabergĂ© eggs in the collection, she accepts he may actually be telling the truth. But as soon as Finley and Maxim act on their feelings for one another, Maxim is confronted with evidence that calls into question everything he’s begun to believe about himself.
My Thoughts

“Everyone’s into the Romanovs. Their story is one of history’s most famous unsolved mysteries.”

“What if there was more to the story?”

I admit to always having been fascinated by the Romanov’s, the last ruling family of Russia before the revolution. The intrigue continues over the supposed survival of Anastasia. Therefore I readily sign up for any new, fictional or otherwise, read regarding this. Knowing this is a ‘chick lit’ (after my last few heavy reads, I was in need of some ‘light and fluffy’ as I like to call it!) I was pleasantly surprised to discover this book contains so much more than romantic escapism.

In equal parts this is a romance AND, importantly,  a rewrite of the classic story, ‘Anastasia’. This is the second book in the Royally series, but the books are in no way related and this most definitely reads as a standalone. What a delightful surprise to discover that there were bonus and legitimate historical references.

‘July 17, 2018 will mark the one hundredth anniversary of the execution of the Tsar and his family ... the Century Rule was instituted here in France after so many claims were made on notable pieces.’

So on the one hand you have this simmering romance but at the same time, this engaging mystery that could possible change history! What fun! A  mysterious, exciting, romantic love story!!!! I was hooked. Add to the usual recipe of romance, an assortment of clues and it proves a fun adventure. The inclusion of things such as the famous Romanov FabergĂ© eggs, and the female lead working at the Louvre make for some credible facts.

‘The Louvre was the biggest museum in the world. The tour guides and docents were fond of telling visitors that the museum was so immense that it would take one hundred straight days to see every piece of art in the Louvre’s extensive collection. And that would leave a mere thirty seconds to look at each one.’

The tragic end to this famous Royal Family has always intrigued and produced many ensuing legends. What the author has done here is create a credible storyline of a man who may indeed be the grandson of the Archduchess Anastasia. It’s a great to journey along with Maxim and Finley as together they seek to investigate and discover the truth behind who he really is.

‘what about the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna, who’d been the Tsar’s mother’

Does the combination work? I believe it does. Yes there is some humour but instead of detracting from the story it provided lighter moments:

‘...meeting a man who gave her serious Mr. Darcy vibes.’

In conclusion, Royally Romanov is a good romantic story with a most worthy and interesting twist on a classic tale - that little bit of  mystery that will engage you through to the very end.

‘She ate, drank, and slept the Romanovs twenty-four hours a day. She’d been chasing them through decades of history’

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release