Friday, 2 November 2018

Top Ten Romance Books I've Read Recently

I have fallen back in love with reading. And I'm not talking about the kind of half-hearted use of the word you use to describe the way you feel about your hair when the hairdresser has cut off four inches too many but you're Classically British and Far Too Socially Awkward to claim anything other than adoration for your new locks. I'm talking Wildly Obsessive, First Thought in the Morning, Last Thought at Night kind of obsessive love. I actually resent myself a little for the couple of years I went without losing myself between the pages of a good read, under four blankets with fairy lights softly lighting the words dancing before my eyes (I live in Leeds and my house is Bloody cold ok).

I wasn't sure how many of you would be interested in a blog post sharing my favourite reads from over the summer, but a resounding 85% of you (via an Instagram Poll: is there another way to make decisions in society today? I'm thinking a second Brexit referendum should be conducted this way) declared you were eager to nosy through my choices, so after agonising for hours (that I definitely didn't have spare) to select a mere ten books, and in no particular order, I'm ready to enlighten your lives in the way these stories have mine.

Now, please understand these stories are nothing short of cheesy. Predictable at (frequent) times, (often) following eerily similar plot structures, (regularly) featuring a cafe/shop/bakery (delete as appropriate), each book follows the narrative of a woman (never looking for love) falling in love. I'm a hopeless romantic. It says so in my Twitter bio so it must be true. So if you too love to lose yourself in someone else's soppy story of mutual affection, DO continue and I promise you won't be disappointed.

*TIP. Most, if not all, of these books were bought from either The Works (who do an amazing 3 for £5 deal all of the time) or supermarkets (ASDA and Sainsburys are my personal faves) so don't go dropping RRP money unless you're particularly desperate*


1) LITTLE BEACH STREET BAKERY (TRILOGY) - JENNY COLGAN

Okay so I'm cheating immediately. This isn't a book. It's a trilogy. But that ~basically~ counts as one  l a r g e  story spread across three times as many pages, with three times as much enjoyment to be provided, so if you're complaining I suggest you reevaluate your attitude. I've decided to include the blurb summaries from each author's website throughout to ensure I don't give away spoilers or end up explaining the entire plot/writing 10,000 words.

'Polly Waterford is recovering from a toxic relationship. Unable to afford their flat, she has to move miles away from everyone, to a sleepy little seaside resort in Cornwall, where she lives alone above an abandoned shop.
And so Polly takes out her frustrations on her favourite hobby: making bread. But what was previously a weekend diversion suddenly becomes far more important as she pours her emotions into kneading and pounding the dough, and each loaf becomes better and better. With nuts and seeds, olives and chorizo, with local honey (courtesy of local bee keeper, Huckle), and with reserves of determination and creativity Polly never knew she had, she bakes and bakes and bakes . . . And people start to hear about it.
Sometimes, bread really is life . . . And Polly is about to reclaim hers'
So yes. Set in Cornwall-ish, including recipes for the DELICIOUS sounding bread Polly creates throughout the narrative, I genuinely adored this series SO MUCH. The Summer and Christmas sequels aren't necessarily vital for your understanding of the story (this isn't Harry Potter), but if you're anything like me and cannot bear to part with the dear characters you've met during a Good Read, you'll be ordering them on Amazon very promptly after closing the pages on the Little Beach Street Bakery. 
2) FIVE YEARS FROM NOW - PAIGE TOON
Right. So firstly, Paige Toon may be my favourite author at present (but ask me tomorrow and it'll probably be different because decisiveness has never been my strong point). Also, I love a good cathartic cry as much as the next man, but this book had me BAWLING. 
'What if you met the right person at the wrong time?
Nell and Van meet as children when their parents fall in love, but soon they are forced worlds apart.


Five years later, they find each other.  Their bond is rekindled and new feelings take hold, but once again they must separate.'

A Very Classic principle of right person/wrong time but written beautifully, agonisingly, and has you tearing your hair out from the roots, pleading that everything you've ever believed about fate and destiny can pull these incredibly loveable characters back into each other's arms where they belong. I'm actually considering reading this one again after writing this mini-review. That. Good.


3) THE LITTLE CAFE IN COPENHAGEN - JULIE CAPLIN

This book is a delightful one for many reasons. The heady love story, ease of read, and the embedded references to Scandinavian culture (PASTRY, HYGGE, GENERAL HAPPY SOCIETY) which make you want to up-sticks and book the next plane ticket to Denmark.

'Welcome to the little cafe in Copenhagen where the smell of cinnamon fills the air, the hot chocolate is as smooth as silk and romance is just around the corner…

Publicist Kate Sinclair’s life in London is everything she thought she wanted: success, glamour and a charming boyfriend. Until that boyfriend goes behind her back and snatches a much sought-after promotion from her. Heartbroken and questioning everything, Kate needs to escape.

From candles and cosy nights in to romantic late-night walks through the beautiful cobbled streets of Copenhagen, Kate discovers how to live life the Danish way’. Can the secrets of hygge and happiness lead her to her own happily-ever-after?'


I was actually genuinely devastated to learn Julie Caplin has only actually been writing for this year, and that there aren't at least 50 more of her books waiting for me to add them to my ~aesthetically pleasing, colour-coded~ shelf. HOWEVER, hopefully this means we are yet to be blessed with many more wonderful tales.


4) YOU, ME, EVERYTHING - CATHERINE ISAAC

I picked up this book initially because of the DNA design on the front (I'm a Biology student, it has to count for something), and sure enough it follows the story of Jess who vows to her mother (who is in the grips of a neurodegenerative disorder) that she will take her son to build a bond with his estranged father in France. 


'Jess and her ten-year-old son William set off to spend the summer at Château de Roussignol, deep in the rich, sunlit hills of the Dordogne. There, Jess’s ex-boyfriend and William’s father, Adam, runs a beautiful hotel in a restored castle. Jess is bowled over by what Adam has accomplished, but she’s in France for a much more urgent reason: to make Adam connect with his own son. Jess can’t allow Adam to let their son down because she is tormented by a secret of her own, one that nobody - especially William - must discover.


By turns life-affirming, heart-wrenching and joyful, You Me Everything is a novel about one woman's fierce determination to grab hold of the family she has and never let go, and a romantic story as heady as a crisp Sancerre on a summer day.'

This is another tear-jerker For Sure. It's one of those Put Life Into Perspective reads, and makes you determined to live as a better version of yourself, making the most of every second. A powerful one. 


5) SUNSHINE AND SWEET PEAS IN NIGHTINGALE SQUARE - HEIDI SWAN

I'm not denying that this isn't possibly the most floral, excessive title to a book ever written, and in all honesty it made me expect a lot less than I actually got from the story. Don't Judge A Book and all. 


'Kate is on the run from her almost-divorced husband who is determined to have her back, and she has found the perfect place to hide... a little cottage on Nightingale Square in Norwich, far away from her old life in London. But the residents of Nightingale Square don't take no for an answer, and Kate soon finds herself pulled into a friendship with Lisa, her bossy but lovely new neighbour.

Within a matter of days Kate is landed with the job of campaigning the council to turn the green into a community garden, meanwhile all the residents of Nightingale Square are horrified to discover that the Victorian mansion house on the other side of the square has been bought by developers. But when all hope is lost, the arrival of a handsome stranger is sure to turn things around!'

If the buzzwords 'handsome stranger', 'community' and 'neighbour' don't summarise the classic tale of Woman Moves To Small Village, Is Surprised To Find Community Spirit Knocks On Her Door And Ropes Her Into Small Village Life, Prior To Arrival Of Brooding Man, I don't know what does. BUT despite it's increasingly familiar structure in plot, I absolutely adore the writing style of Heidi Swan and have since picked up another couple of her books. Lovely. 


6) THE LAST PIECE OF MY HEART - PAIGE TOON

Back to Paige Toon because I wasn't exaggerating my love for her romantic tales (spoiler: there's one more on this list yet). I particularly enjoyed this one and distinctly remember reading it in approximately two (long) sittings, start to finish, and crying at least four buckets by the end of the final page (which is my favourite but DON'T peek). 

'A successful travel journalist, Bridget has ambitions to turn her quirky relationship blog about the missing pieces of her heart into a book. But after a spate of rejections from publishers, she accepts an alternative proposition.


Nicole Dupré died leaving behind a bestselling novel and an incomplete sequel. Tasked with finishing the book, Bridget is thankful to have her foot in the publishing door, even if it means relocating to Cornwall for the summer and answering to Nicole's grieving husband, Charlie...'


It's also a very pretty colour for your shelf. 


7) SUMMER AT ROSE ISLAND - HOLLY MARTIN

This book is very summery and warm and all of the things you may want to divulge in as we head into the cold winter months. Another story of a woman who immediately involves herself in her new community's life, battling to save a lighthouse. Plenty of twists and turns in this one, which you may or may not see coming (I did, maybe I've read too many of these similar books at this point. Considering writing one myself) but overall very enjoyable. 

‘Fall in love with Holly Martin's White Cliff Bay this summer. Enjoy the beautiful beaches, long days in the sun and . . . a little romance. After a string of disastrous jobs and relationships Darcy Davenport can't wait to escape London and move to the lovely seaside village of White Cliff Bay. As she begins to swim daily in the crystal clear waters, she discovers the charming Rose Island lighthouse. But it's not just the beautiful building that she finds so intriguing . . . Riley Eddison doesn't want change. Desperate to escape the memories of his tragic past, he lives a life of solitude in the lighthouse. Yet he can't help but notice Darcy. But when his unique home is threatened, both Darcy and Riley are forced to pick sides. Darcy's fallen in love with White Cliff Bay. But is that all she's fallen for?


8) THIS COULD CHANGE EVERYTHING - JILL MANSELL

I found the concept behind this book a tad far fetched and rather over-dramatic. Essie writes a letter which ends up in the wrong hands and ultimately derails her entire future, something I can't necessarily see happening to many people in average day to day life. That being said, I LOVED the writing style of Jill Mansell and am delighted that there are so many other reads of hers to line up on my Amazon wishlist.

'On the one hand, if Essie hadn’t written that letter – the one that only her best friend was meant to see – then she’d still be living like an actual proper grown-up, tucked up with Paul in his picture-perfect cottage, maybe even planning their wedding…
On the other hand (if her true feelings hadn’t accidentally taken the internet by storm, that is) she never would have met Zillah and Conor – not to mention Lucas. And she’d never have found out just how much life there is to be lived…'


If you can see past the initial Is This Very Realistic origin of the plot, it's definitely worth the perseverance.

9) THE SUMMER THEATRE BY THE SEA - TRACY CORBETT

Full of drama in every form, The Summer Theatre By The Sea has not one, but TWO love stories. What more could you be after? Also, a new take on the traditional plot you've seen throughout the list so far, featuring a theatre company instead of a cafe/bakery/shop. What a delight. 

'Charlotte Saunders has always loved the buzz of city life. So, when she finds herself abruptly fired and dumped in one fell swoop, she’s devastated to have to swap her London home for the sleepy town of Penmullion, Cornwall, to move in with her estranged sister.
But Lauren Saunders has problems of her own. A single mother to twins, the bills are piling up faster than she can pay them. And when what she thinks is a loan from a friend puts her deeper in debt than ever, things are starting to look impossible.
In desperate need of a distraction, the two sisters turn to their community drama club. With bit of help from their new friends and lot of help from each other, can the Saunders sisters turn their luck around before the summer ends?'

In all seriousness, do not underestimate the drama between the pages of this book, another I finished within a couple of sittings (after a 2am reading session before a 9am, it got desperate) because I was so involved with the happenings of the Saunders sisters.

10) LUCY IN THE SKY - PAIGE TOON

And FINALLY, the last Paige Toon book I allowed myself to include for now (super-fan present). From the very first chapter, this story is intense, distressing, engaging and quite clearly utilises every Hook we were convinced to use in Year 9 English Literature, because I was absolutely obsessed immediately. 

'Settling down for a 24-hour flight to Australia, Lucy finds a text message on her phone - not from her boyfriend James, as she fondly hopes, but from a woman claiming to have slept with him four times in the past month. Trapped on the plane, she questions everything about her relationship with James. She finally calls him and he reassures her: it was only his mates playing a silly joke.


James is a lawyer, persuasive and gorgeous and Lucy adores him. So why, at the wedding in Sydney of her best friend Molly, does she have niggling doubts, and find herself attracted to Molly's brother-in-law Nathan? The sooner she gets back to her regular life in London, the flat she shares with James, her job in PR, the better. Nathan is a happy-go-lucky surfer boy, with no prospects, no place to live, an almost-girlfriend in tow. And the other side of the world...

Lucy - a girl caught between two distant continents - and two very different men...'


ALSO my favourite thing about Paige Toon is that her book often overlap, so imagine my delight when a couple of character's from Lucy in the Sky appeared in an entirely different novel. MAGIC. 

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