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Susan Smith RSS Feed (A small rural village in the English Midlands)

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Losing You
Losing You
by Susan Lewis
Edition: Paperback
8 used & new from $1.47

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Life is like a fragile eggshell, May 2, 2012
This review is from: Losing You (Paperback)
What a terrific novel by an author I am coming to appreciate more and more with each book I read by her. She is a new writer to me so I have been reading from her backlist but was delighted to be the first one to pick this one up at the library. It's a moving and tense story of what happens when a serious and life changing accident happens and causes ripple effects that engulf the victim and everyone around them. It truly shows you how fragile life is and the ramifications of near tragedy on our relationships. Centering on Emma, the mother of Lauren, the story tells of how mother and daughter are starting a new life when suddenly a horrific accident happens and everything suddenly changes. Drawn into the drama are the rest of the family (including several generations), friends, acquaintances, perpetrators and their families, school chums and teachers, doctors, therapists and so forth. In this multi level story we are taken into the lives of so many different people and we learn the backstories of many of them. I don't want to give spoilers so will say simply that this moving book is a terrific read. I stayed up late several nights reading it. The characters are all well developed, the plotting is first class and the story will stay with you. Highly recommended for a five star read.


My Dearest Friend (Regency Romance Series Book 1)
My Dearest Friend (Regency Romance Series Book 1)

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My Dearest Friend: My Dearest Enemy, February 9, 2012
In this book we are introduced to Robert Blake, the Duke of Lear, son of Dominic from another of Hazel Statham's novels. This is a story of two halves and how the course of true love often does not run down the smoothest path.

When we meet Robert, he is alone, his parents apparently long dead and his beloved younger brother dead in Spain from battle wounds. His demise has left Robert utter devastated and so deep in grief that he seems utterly without emotion. Jane Chandler is a neighbour who comes to call at his door one day. Jane lives alone, the daughter of a deceased gambler, whose brother Harry is also a soldier and now lies gravely wounded following the siege at Badajoz. She is desperate to reach him and fetch him home and thus seeks Robert's advice on obtaining transport to Portugal and then Spain. Robert, now given something meaningful to do with his life, decides to accompany her in order to assist her in her quest and, without telling her in advance, appears on board the yacht he has loaned to her when they cast off from Portsmouth. Slightly improper to be sure as she is headstrong and has insisted on going to the peninsula alone and without a duenna of any sort. However, the first half of the book is about their journey to Elvas where Harry is billeted. They fall deeply in love - two lonely and emotionally vulnerable people who are, it would seem, made for each other. The description of them learning to know each other is lyrical - I felt so deeply empathetic to them. However, the first half of the book, though celebrating the renewing properties of a deep and mutual love, does have a dark undertone. You just feel an impending sense that something will go amiss and spoil such happiness.

Married whilst in Spain, they return to blissful life together in England with a recovering Harry. However, that sense of doom is now fully awakened for what happens in the second half of this lovely story is The Great Misunderstanding. Robert still has his vulnerabilities and Jane has enjoyed a degree of independence so does not react well to any criticism or inadvertent unreasonableness on the part of Robert. You want to shout at both of them to stop being so blind and stubborn but, of course, this is a romance, and despite his consuming jealousy and her refusal to listen to the man who truly adores her, they eventually reconcile.

Once again I have been delighted by the beautiful quality of the author's prose, particularly the very high quality of her narrative skills and her feel for the somewhat formal and stately language of the early 19th century. She has created a memorable H/H and an accompanying cast of wonderful supporting characters. I like the way the author gets inside the heads of her heroes and gives them faults that they must overcome. Her heroines are girls who stand up for themselves but are firmly planted in the regency soil. I am so pleased to find an author who is ticking my boxes and who seems determined to write in the style of the traditional regency so much loved by many of us and now so hard to find. Highly recommended; a keeper.
Comment Comments (7) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 13, 2014 7:52 AM PDT


The Fountain
The Fountain
by Mary Nichols
Edition: Paperback
Price: $16.95
82 used & new from $0.01

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Painful story of a bad marriage, November 17, 2011
This review is from: The Fountain (Paperback)
I found this book to be grey and gloomy but still a very good read. Set in the 1920s and 1930s, it is the story of young Barbara, a university student aspiring to being an artist, from a good family in a small Norfolk town who has the world before her. She has a friend, Penny, whose brother Simon is newly returned from the war when the book opens. Simon is struggling with a certain degree of PTSD but he has some interest in Barbara though he does not pursue it. Instead, a brash, ambitious and older man named George has designs on Barbara and relentlessly pursues her until circumstances lead Barbara into accepting a proposal of marriage.

The novel then follows the marriage of Barbara and George and his ruthless, dishonest and relentless drive to build up a building business. There are some good insights into his character for it is on him that the story turns. Ultimately, of course, he gets his comeuppance but only after he has ruined his marriage and committed serial adultry. Barbara struggles along for the sake of the children but she, too, is driven off the rails by Simon who never quite leaves her life.

I found this to be a well told, slightly old fashioned story by an author who writes well. Her stories are set in a timeframe with which I am not particularly familiar: the 1920s and 30s and I have found this to be very interesting from a personal perspective. She is very good at the anatomy of a failing, doomed marriage and although the subject matter might seem off-putting it does, nevertheless provide a page turning story as you follow the inevitable path of doom. There are few light moments in this book but even so it is entertaining and a good read. I would recommend this to someone feeling a little jaded who wants something different from chick lit or romantic fiction, especially as it is set in a little used timeframe.


Lost Innocence
Lost Innocence
by Susan Lewis
Edition: Paperback
24 used & new from $1.49

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Emotional roller coaster, November 3, 2011
This review is from: Lost Innocence (Paperback)
As the editorial review states, this is a book about betrayal and, as the title suggests, lost innocence. When in the opening pages of this story Alicia's highly successful lawyer husband, Craig, drops dead in their car, a whole back story is unleashed which is the driver of current events. Alicia moves back to her childhood home with her young daughter and 17 year old son. Living there also is her brother, Robert, and her sister-in-law, Sabrina, and Sabrina's 15 year old daugher Annabelle. These are the characters who drive the story. Briefly, Annabelle is an ill-mannered and dangerous girl mixing with the wrong types, into drugs, alcohol and illegal and indiscriminant sex. When at the crisis point of the book she tells Craig (on whom she is fixated) that her mother and his father had a torrid and long affair, he is shocked and then behaves in such a way that she brings an accusation of rape. The remainder of the book is taken up trying to understand what actually happened, why and how the justice system and police deal with such matters.

This book is filled with high emotions and sharply drawn characters for the most part but it falls a bit short on the melodrama that some of them engage in. The writing is crisp and well done; no issues with the quality of the author's prose and story telling abilities. If I must make a criticisn it is that some of the actions some characters take are just a bit too melodramatic to seem plausible. However, that did not really detract from my overall enjoyment of this page turner. There is an interesting cast of secondary characters in the story and despite the generally dark tone of the book, there are, through these secondary actors, some chinks of light for the future. I can't give this one 5 stars but it's certainly a 4 star read: entertaining and gripping and a good read.


The Summer House (Charnwood Large Print)
The Summer House (Charnwood Large Print)
by Mary Nichols
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $35.50
13 used & new from $2.91

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Poignant and entertaining story set in WWII, October 25, 2011
Lady Helen Drummond, daughter of an earl, marries to please her family which, during the first couple of decades of the 20th century was what well brought up, aristocratic young girls did. However, it is not a love match and Helen makes a fatal mistake during the years of the first world war when she meets a young Canadian army officer, Oliver. She is packed off to the wilds of Scotland to bear the mistake and the child is taken from her for adoption. Young Laura is adopted by a couple in the east end of London and grows up in poverty but great and abiding love. Life, though, for her adoptive mother, is full of secrets and deceptions.

The second world war breaks out and Laura falls in love with a pilot and they are soon to marry. Tragedy strikes and his best man must break the news to Laura of his death on her wedding day. The plot then really kicks off and the overshadowing character in this story is the second world war as experienced by Londoners.

This story is made up of a series of sometimes credulous plot devices but they can be overlooked because events move along at a cracking pace and the sum of the whole is better than its parts. For me there were a few too many coincidences and plotting conveniences but because the characters and their back stories are so well crafted you don't particularly care about that. Laura and her family (both adopted and natural) play out a dramatic series of events all overshadowed and shaped by the war, the bombings, the shortages, the rationing, the queuing, the deaths, the stark reality of sitting in an Anderson shelter, air sorties, land girls, chancers, wide boys, snatched moments of love in a world utterly insecure and so forth.

An enjoyable and entertaining read set well in the war years, moving along with great energy, this is a story that I recommend to those who would particularly like to read a novel set in the second world war. The author has a background as a M&B writer but she has truly transcended that and has produced a very good book.


Julia's Way
Julia's Way
by Elizabeth Lord
Edition: Paperback
Price: $15.95
12 used & new from $2.94

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Full circle?, October 25, 2011
This review is from: Julia's Way (Paperback)
I won't go over the plot again in detail but will comment that it was an interesting time in which to set this story, the 1920s. It's out of my own comfort zone and I can't recall having read a romantic/historical novel set in this period before. However many incidents in the story relate well to our own times and this novel was written after the bank scancal of 2007 so it is particularly poignant in that some of the difficulties faced by the characters are being faced again today in the recessionary world in which we live.

Comments: Julia is the strong character in a family faced with instant and complete poverty from a life of ease, wealth and position. As such she must take care of a mother who is apparently to weak to face up to reality, a brother and sisters who need to be motivated and, indeed, she must self-motivate in order to help feed and maintain her family. This she does with remarkable success along with her partner (they live together but don't marry initially - quite a scandal in those times I should think). Simon Layzell and Julia build up a successful, thriving fashion house but he has feet of clay and is not your typical romance hero in that his faults do not disappear and his actions bring the story full circle: think "clogs to clogs in three generations" but in one decade instead. There is a feeling of foreboding throughout this story. Our H/h experience high points but you never escape the feeling of dread that it will all come unstuck.

Julia's family are well drawn. One sister is selfish, smart mouthed, uncaring and a main chancer of a snob. Her brother is more low key but being so much younger his actions are a little less selfish. A second sister is more accommodating and sweet. Julia's mother is simply ghastly. I can't remember a mother being more difficult in romantic fiction for a long time. You want to smack her, shake her and tell her to get a life. Julia just about copes with her but her presence marks them all.

This was not a particularly happy book. Set in the 1920s, you always know much will end in tears. The author's great talent here is that despite this, knowing that it will not have a HEA ending, you still turn the pages because the story is so well written that you need to know what happens next.

I can't give this book 5 stars; I would prefer 4.5 if it were possible. I think that sometimes there is a tad too much melodrama and some of the plot devices are unnuanced and a bit harsh. However, it is, overall, a stylishly written, sometimes highly emotional, sometimes highly charged story with interesting and attention keeping characters. I will look out for something else by this writer.


The Mill House
The Mill House
by Susan Lewis
Edition: Paperback
119 used & new from $0.01

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Anatomy of a marriage, October 13, 2011
This review is from: The Mill House (Paperback)
I have never read anything by Susan Lewis but will be looking out for other books by her. The Mill House is the story of a marriage in severe crisis. On the face of it, Julia and Josh have a marriage made in heaven. Everything in their lives seems, initially, to be perfect. They are rich, beautiful, have darling children, a fabulous house and boat, and are completely besotted with each other and have a terrific sex life. However, there is a worm in eden and it is eating away at Julia.

Julia's father, whom she adored and who adored her, vanished from her life when she was 15 without explanation. Despite trying to get information from her mother, unsuccessfully, Julia has been unable to understand what happened. This has eaten away at her and she is now moving into serious depression as a result.

I don't want to give spoilers so I will only repeat what is on the cover blurb: 2 phone calls turn life inside out and upside down for Julia and Josh. As a result, their lives completely change course and Julia must deal with death, depression, dislocation and complete humiliation. She makes some bad moves and suffers for them but then so does Josh. You wonder until nearly the last page if they will ever be able to be together again.

Susan Lewis writes with great insight into the fabric of a marriage in trouble. She creates well rounded characters who act out believeable scenarios. There is much pain in this book. It clearly demonstrates that marriage is a matter, sometimes, of hard work and perservance. There are some difficult issues covered: illness, death, betrayal, family breakdown, incest, paedophilia.

I enjoyed reading this very much and found it to be a real page turner. Well written, full of insight, painful at times but ultimately uplifting. Recommended for a great read.


Filthy Rich
Filthy Rich
by Wendy Holden
Edition: Paperback
12 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great holiday read, October 13, 2011
This review is from: Filthy Rich (Paperback)
I took this on holiday last week and was glad I did because it was a cleverly written, very amusing and sometimes poignant story of life in a small village and the residents who live there. If you live in a small village, as I do, you will most certainly recognise many of the characters from the old man who is the allotment fount of all knowledge to the alternate lifestyle know-it-all busy body who drives everyone nuts. The arguments over allotment allocations, treasure trove, planning applications and so on are right on form. There are layers of stories so there is more than one hero and heroine but my personal favourites are the owners of the stately home that is falling to bits while they are too broke to replace the ancient dead Volvo on the drive and survive on cheese on toast whilst running from here and there to move buckets to catch the drips from the ancient hole-ridden ceilings. There is a WAG, a rich American incomer couple, a sad solicitor and a new headmistress at the local church school who tussles with the vicar from hell. Wendy Holden gets under the skin of her characters and makes you laugh out loud at what some of them get up to. Alexandra the WAG was my favourite comedy sketch - absurd to the point of ridiculous but so, so funny. In some ways this is a very English story and there are some "in" jokes but over all it is well enough written to appeal to anyone who likes a good laugh and a rapdily paced read.


Marrying Up
Marrying Up

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good laugh, September 13, 2011
This review is from: Marrying Up (Kindle Edition)
I've never read anything by Wendy Holden but after reading a review of this book in the papers, decided to take a chance. This was a very cleverly written, quite acerbic look at social mobility through the pursuit of the opposite sex. It is told by interspliced stories of three young women who are very different from each other in their behaviour and outlook on life.

First we have young student archaeologist, Polly, who is a sweet girl with a sunny nature who has been hurt by a chap so is wary of love. Then we have Lady Florence (with a triple barrelled surname), daughter of a fiercely aristocratic mother and father with an earldom. She is the not so dimwit artiso totally dedicated to a life of pleasure (think Paris Hilton or the Ecclestone sisters). Finally, Alexa, the most dedicated social climber (or castle creeper) I've ever encountered in fiction. Nothing will stop this girl from bagging herself either a title or a Russian zillionaire. Mix in some Hello magazine settings and players and a dollop of brand name items and you have a story of how these three are on the look out for a man.

Holden is quite acute in her observations, sarcastic but sometimes sympathetic to the ups and downs these three women must endure to get their man. Success, or lack of it, makes for some fun reading. There are some episodes that will make you laugh out loud, some that will make you cringe in sympathetic embarrassment and some that will allow you to feel a bit of schadenfreude. Recommended for a light hearted and easy read with some really clever and funny scenes. A few small editing errors spotted but nothing to detract from a fun story.


Laying the Ghost
Laying the Ghost
by Judy Astley
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.95
110 used & new from $0.01

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fun, lighthearted read for summer, August 16, 2011
This review is from: Laying the Ghost (Paperback)
I picked up a couple of Judy Astley books at the library a week or so ago and, having never read her before, approached them with an open mind. I have to say that I will be looking for more books by this author because if you want a fun, lighthearted, easy summer read then she is the writer for you. I would not rate this as a keeper but it was definitely a well written story with engaging characters.

I suspect that Astley hones on in the recently divorced 40-something woman and has made her a speciality. Certainly this is the case in the second book I am reading, and she does a good job of telling us about Nell, left by her husband, Alex, for the archetypal younger model. Nell has 2 kids although we only meet her teenaged daughter, Mimi, who gives her monther a few moments of anxiety but is also a funny girl who holds her own in the story.

The plot is based around the efforts of Nell to find an old boyfriend whom she has never been able to forget - Patrick - and make contact after the years of her marriage to Alex. Patrick is her "young love's dream" and she wants to see if the spark is still there. In the meantime, next door neighbour, Ed, is there to help her in any way he can with whatever is troubling her, providing a shoulder to cry on or keep an eye out for potential burglars. Steve, the self-defence teacher, also becomes a bit of a focal point in her life who teaches rather more than how to stick your finger in an assailant's eye.

All in all, the story of the recently divorced Nell learning to get back her life and her adventures on the way are a funny, warm-hearted, amusing summer read with moments of humour and a pleasant way to pass a few hours.


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