A Bank Holiday book list – time to put your feet up

April 7, 2023

This article was written for Annabel & Grace, which is now part of Rest Less.

Janet Gordon has once again given us a diverse set of four reviews – three novels and one account of life for women in Regency England. A perfect book list for the bank holiday.

So now we know –  Davina McCall is to host a Love Island for oldies  – provisionally entitled The Romance Retreat  –  will you be watching (that’s probably a no from me)  – or even more for singletons – would you apply to be a contestant? Luckily I’m happily married so I don’t have to make that decision.  And as I’ve never watched Love Island, I don’t know what would be involved.

Celebrity reality shows are a tried and tested (you think?) way for celebrities to boost their profiles, and obviously, some are better at it than others, but my first read is a celebrity reality show that I don’t think has actually ever been done.

Freeze by Kate Simants (Viper)

“Freeze” is set in the Arctic, where a group of not quite has been celebrities have signed up for what is billed as the toughest reality show on television.   

Hosted by the ever smiling, ever amenable Tori, who set up “Tori Tells Stories” in order to fund this, she and her partner Will have ploughed everything they own into the company. Will is charged with bringing in all the finance, arranging sponsors, sorting out an ice-breaking ship and all the hundreds of things needed to bring the show to the screen. 

Tori’s best friend Dee is a reality show camera person, but she has a hidden secret that even Tori doesn’t know. And, of course, each one of the contestants also has their own secrets they are desperate to keep hidden. And because there is a prize of £100,000 for the winning contestant – the one who completes all the icy challenges and is voted the most “popular” of all – the tension couldn’t be any higher.

Love Island this isn’t – in fact it’s the polar (!) opposite of Love Island, seeing as all contestants are shrouded head to foot in heavy-duty clothing designed to keep the ice at bay. The ice-breaking ship is as far removed from a luxury cruise ship as you can imagine, although the food is plentiful and hot.

There are dead bodies right from the off, mystery and intrigue aplenty, and it’s fizzing with excitement and tension, and much as I’d love to cruise the Artic and watch out for the Northern Lights, this is definitely one reality show that I wouldn’t be signing up for.

Every Happy Family by Sarah Stovell (HQ)

Lizzie is large-sized and proud of it, Owen hasn’t seen his family for over ten years whilst Jess is about to give birth any day now. All three are the offspring of Minnie and Bert, and Minnie has decided – no insisted – that all three including Jess’s toddler and her newly born babe – are home for Christmas.  Lizzie also drinks too much mulled wine – well, it’s that time of year – and anyway, mulled wine offsets calories, doesn’t it?

And something happened to the brilliant  Owen when he was about to sit his A levels and go to the university of his choice. He met Nora – a self-contained and intellectual thinker whose mother deserted her at such a young age.

Told in a series of flashback chapters, this is a wonderful humour filled look at a dysfunctional family who is held together by more than Minnie and the laconic Bert.  This is a beautifully written story that compels you to read on.

I haven’t read Sarah Stovell’s first novel, “Other Parents”, published last year, but as it’s currently on a 99p kindle offer, I’ve downloaded it ready for a holiday trip.

The Game of Hearts by Felicity Day (Blink)

It will not surprise readers how much I love the Regency period.  Yes, I know it’s not all Bridgerton and Georgette Heyer; for poor people not blessed with wealth, life could be absolutely abysmal.  But of course, in my fantasy Regency world, I’m not only an heiress but extremely beautiful, blessed with sparkling eyes and a wonderful figure, and I catch a handsome aristocrat.

But in “The Game of Hearts”, we meet not fantasy Regency figures but six real-life leading ladies and their families. With a wonderful behind-the-scenes look at how they loved and lived, this is just as enthralling as any fantasy romance.

Felicity Day has pieced together all manner of wonderful Regency details and showcased the hopes and desires of real-life Regency women. Imagine those poor young ingenues dressed up and paraded for the annual Marriage Mart. Tied into the tightest of corsets, forced to dance with whoever asks, their marriageable worth guaranteed by how much their dowry or inheritance would be, and forced to marry somebody they have barely even said hello to.

The Walled Garden by Sarah Hardy (Manilla Press)

I guess I was lucky – my Dad landed on D-Day but, according to my booba (Yiddish for grandmother) hadn’t changed character at all and was still the same happy soul.   And husband’s father, who was left behind at Dunkirk and had to make his own way home after fighting with the French Resistance, also didn’t let his war experiences affect him.

Set in 1946, the major characters in “The Walled Garden”, are  Sir Stephen Rayne who back from the War to live with Alice, his wife, in the deeply crumbling Oakbourne Hall. A vast manor house which had seen the Canadian Army requisition it for the duration, and even using the beautiful wooden doors as dart boards.  Also back from the War is Dr Downes, trying to become the best local GP for his patients but struggling with the loss of a leg. Then there is  Rev Ivens, who is treated with friendship by Alice and with disdain by Stephen but has moved from his East End parish because of ill health. Alice, trying so hard to not only rebuild – or at least – make it habitable – Oakbourne Hall – finds an ally in Rev Ivens.

Oh, this is glorious – I’ve not read many novels where we can clearly see how returning from WWII has affected so many families, and you really feel for Alice, keeping quiet whilst she’s tongue lashed by her husband.  Beautifully written, this is a novel to savour.

Six Days by Dani Atkins (Hodder)

I know I reviewed this previously, but I’m delighted to announce  that my lovely friend Dani has won the  2023 Jackie Collins Romantic Thriller Award for her delightful novel Six Days. Read my earlier review HERE.

It’s currently free on Kindle Unlimited.  And all her previous novels are on my charity shop search list.

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