Bridal Bootcamp – Bella Bailey

What to Expect:

Bridal Bootcamp is a contemporary romantic comedy set in Dublin, Ireland. When Yvonne’s boyfriend Simon accepts her marriage proposal, she resolves to give her family and friends the best wedding imaginable! And if the little matter of money gets in the way…well, she’ll worry about that later.
Besides, it’s not as if she has nothing else to fret about – Simon’s twin sister Tracey is hell-bent on finding a way to stop the wedding. When Simon’s ex, Sandra, returns from the past and reveals that Simon is the father of her baby, it looks like Tracey might get her wish – especially as Sandra is demanding a kidney from Simon for their gravely ill child.
And that’s the easy part….what Yvonne doesn’t know is that her best friend, Rachel, is harbouring a deadly secret that has the potential to obliterate Yvonne’s relationship with Simon forever…..a secret that comes to light in a dramatic crescendo on their big day in front of everyone they know.
The power of this young couple’s love is put to the test again and again, and they embark on a journey of discovery about their relationship. The issues they face force them to evaluate what’s really important to them – their wedding, or their impending marriage.

This one was difficult to categorise, and is possibly not as frothy as its cover design, blurb and title indicates. There’s some surprisingly serious subject matter towards the end, while the lighter parts were reminiscent of Don’t Tell The Groom.

Kooks for your Kindle?– A wide range of supporting friends and relatives provide added action and intrigue, although not many are fleshed out. Sandra, the ex-girlfriend, was nicely done as the desperate mother who has to convince Simon that her betrayal is insignificant when bigger issues are at hand. Simon was a nice down to earth chap who clearly adores our heroine, although her dramatics conflict with his desire for a quiet life. Naming five major characters with the letter S was a little cruel. Tracey and Simon are twins and the opposite sides of a coin- she has made up her mind about Tracey before they meet and her sole purpose seems to be to break them up, purely due to a bit of jealousy.

The Bella-Swan-Pathetically-Self-Sacrificing-Factor– Yvonne had (what I call) a touch of the Shopaholics- she waltzes along in her own reality while her obviously catastrophic decisions all pile up until her understanding man finds out. The financial choices are the worst- we’re told Yvonne is well organised and level headed but she goes so far over budget, the budget becomes a speck in the distance. Her bridezilla blog highlights her selfish overbearing character, as does her behaviour with her friends Molly and Rachel. It was hard to like her to be honest, but of course she learns her lesson when it all falls apart. Her saving grace, in my eyes, was her self respect and assertiveness.

Provoking your Inner-Pedant– Pedants like me will wince at the errors, a good professional proofreader would not go amiss.

Evaluation of your eBook?– For all my negativity above, I have to say the plot was gripping, and kept me hanging on into the early hours. There’s plenty of action and of course everything goes wrong. The serious subject matter towards the end (no spoilers!) was largely handled with sensitivity. I nearly gave up near the start as I found Yvonne so obnoxious, but the fast moving plot kept me going and it got better.

Frothy Ranking: 2.5/5 cocktails.

Can be obtained from:

UK: Amazon for £1.86, although recently it was on special for free, so click the price for the latest.

US: Amazon for $2.99.

Me and You – Claudia Carroll

What to expect:
Heartbreaking and uplifting, Me and You is a story about how hard it is to leave our old selves behind, the tough choices we sometimes have to make and how love and friendship can heal the most damaged of hearts.
“I’m fine. I’m sorry. Please take care of him for me. And maybe one day I’ll get to explain.”
Angie knows a lot about her best friend Kitty. She knows Kitty is mad and wild and loves to wear clashing colours. She knows she’s incredibly funny and generous but also very unreliable. And she knows that there is a perfect explanation for Kitty standing her up on her birthday. She thinks she knows everything about Kitty, except she doesn’t.
Kitty knows that she is the happiest she has ever been. She knows she’s so lucky to have a lovely boyfriend, Simon and a best friend like Angie. But what she doesn’t know is that on this night, her past is finally going to catch up with her and change everything.

The tale is told mostly from Angie’s perspective, with some reveals from Kitty. The subject matter is quite dark, but it’s told in a frothy style. Claudia Carroll is the same author who brought us another favourite Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow.

The Bella-Swan-Pathetically-Self-Sacrificing-Factor– Both leads are a bit of a mess, although they appear outwardly strong and like to think of themselves as ‘gobby’, but when it comes down to it, both ended up going under. Angie’s less outgoing and self-confident, whereas Kitty’s overcome the abandonment suffered in childhood. I’ll keep Kitty’s history a mystery in order to avoid spoilers, but it’s a frightening one. Angie has less self-confidence, she doesn’t stand up to her overbearing family and she’s terrible with men but when her best mate is in trouble she pulls out all the stops to search for answers. In a way I think this gives her the boost to sort her own life out.

Kooks for your Kindle?– Lots of lovely smaller characters, right down to the granny next door who ends up cooking for Angie and Simon in their darkest days. Mrs K (Kitty’s former foster mother) has Alzheimers now, but knew just how to sort her out when Kitty joined her as a teen. The antagonist is, let’s just say, scary. Everyone right down to the police and former colleagues are thoroughly brought to life.

Painting a Picture for your Paperback?– Set mostly in Dublin, the book has a hugely Irish feel to it. Told from Angie’s point of view for the most part, the colloquialisms bring it to life without reaching the point where subtitles are required- I’d never heard the term ‘holliers’ before, but in context all the words can be deciphered!

Evaluation of your eBook?– It’s longer than expected- at one stage I thought I’d reached the end as things were wrapping up, only to notice I was 50% through! But I’m glad it didn’t end there, as you will be. The beginning section- where Kitty goes missing and her friends are trying to find what’s happened to her- goes on a little too long while they don’t know whether she’s even alive, which is not a mystery for the reader as the blurb gives that much away. The narrative style is akin to a diary or a letter from a very old friend, for the most part at least, leading to a frothy feel. Without giving anything away, the themes explored at the end are really well done and give such an insight as to how such a terrible situation can happen to anyone. As for Angie’s story, her life takes a rewarding turn as she discovers her own potential. Recommended for a gripping read with added depth.

Frothy Ranking: 4/5 cocktails.

Can be obtained from:

UK: Amazon for 99p if it’s on special, click for the latest.

US: I can’t find it on any American sites yet, let me know and I’ll update.

Secrets of The Lighthouse- Santa Montefiore

What to expect:
“Ellen Trawton is running away from it all – quite literally. She is due to get married to a man she doesn’t love, her job is dragging her down and her interfering mother is getting on her nerves. So she escapes to the one place she know her mother won’t follow her – to her aunt’s house in rural Ireland. Once there, she uncovers a dark family secret – and a future she never knew she might have.
Meanwhile, Caitlin Macausland is mourning the future she can never have. She died tragically in what the village thinks is suspicious circumstances, and now she is stuck in a limbo, unable to move on.
And between the two of them is an old lighthouse – the scene of so much tragedy. Can each woman find the peace she so desperately longs for? And can they find the way to live again?”

What starts off as a sad tale of a Caitlin watching her own funeral and Ellen escaping her own privileged yet empty life, becomes an uplifting tale.

Kooks for your Kindle?– I’ve tagged this under ‘Irish froth’, because although the author herself isn’t Irish, the book is mostly set there and is full of very Irish characters and warmth. Aunt Peg is the main relative, she’s kind and accommodating but doesn’t permit Ellen to remain in denial for too long. She’s also hiding a secret that makes it all the more poignant when she welcomes her sister’s daughter. Ellen’s mother Madeline has become thoroughly English but also horribly snobbish since marrying into the upper classes, she only wants the best for Ellen. So who is Dylan, and why did Madeline leave him behind all those years ago? Ellen is amazed to discover that her Mum also has lots of brothers, although they all blend into one with the exception of overbearing Desmond.

Conor links the two leading ladies, he’s Caitlin’s widower and five years later he becomes Ellen’s great love. He seems like bad news at first, and I thought he would be overly controlling, but thankfully he’s a good egg. However the locals all still view him with suspicion following his wife’s accidental death.

The Bella-Swan-Pathetically-Self-Sacrificing-Factor– Caitlin is the ghost, still jealous by nature and desperate for her husband’s love after all this time. Her journey is the most interesting, she takes a while to catch on, despite another most enlightened ghostly presence nearby. Ellen seems younger than her thirty-something years, and is a little spoiled, but a bit of Irish pragmatism soon beats some of it out of her. Her decision to run off without telling anyone in order to find herself seems a little childish, but it’s exactly what she needs, even if things don’t turn out remotely as she’d expected.

Painting a Picture for your Paperback?– As you might imagine, rural Ireland is lovingly portrayed, with windswept beaches, farmhouses, beautiful castles and a rundown lighthouse. The people are equally well illustrated, the bigger characters having some interesting twists and turns. Back in the UK, we don’t get to know Ellen’s sisters well, they were in background reminding me of the ugly stepsisters in Cinderella. Her mother’s interesting tale is the focus there.

Evaluation of your eBook?– I wasn’t sure at the start of the book, with the first ghostly chapter, but once the real world is established, there are enough mysteries to grab the reader. Unfortunately one of them is blatantly obvious to everyone except Ellen many chapters before the reveal, but there is still reason to stick around. It’s a nice atmospheric misty story with plenty of wise adages thrown around by the older folk mixed in with the modern younger generations. The supernatural element won’t be a surprise to regular readers of the author, I seem to remember a ghost in the last one of hers that I read (to say which would be to spoil that one), but Caitlin’s limbo-like existence is explored in an interesting way here. Few shocks, but a gentle ethereal tale for all ages.

Frothy Ranking: 3.5/5 cocktails.

Can be obtained from:

UK: Amazon for £4.75, although recently it was on 99p special so click for the latest.

US: Not on Amazon, but Kobobooks have it for $12.39.

Something Like Love – Catherine Dunne

What to expect:
After twenty years of marriage, Ben ups and leaves his wife Rose, their children and their family home in Dublin. Just like that: no words of regret, no compromise, no note – only a simple ‘I don’t love you anymore’. It has taken Rose all this time to get her life together again: she’s brought up her three children, Lisa, Brian and Damien single-handedly, and not without difficulty for never again does she want to be completely broke, or to have to revisit that night in hospital with Damien hovering between life and death. To think about it just makes her shudder. Now Rose is concentrating on her business, the ‘Bonne Bouche’ bakery, and all the clients she’s won, all the friends she’s made. Her accounts are in order, the business is blooming. Life really doesn’t seem too bad. Until Ben returns, again without warning, and it is soon clear that he expects to infiltrate Rose’s carefully created world in the most unwelcome of ways

Don’t be afraid, the story is lighter and more uplifting than the cover suggests (despite its smiley faces it seems sad to me). It’s older than I’d thought- I got it on special assuming it was new- the kindle edition was released last year but the paperback is about 7 years old. There is now a prequel, In the Beginning, released recently.

Kooks for your Kindle?– The supportive characters are not the kooky type, and are beautifully done, although I did get some of Rose’s friends and colleagues mixed up. Her husband is a narcissistic man-child; he has no comprehension of the situation he left Rose in eight years earlier. He’s only interested in money, this is one of the things that hooks the reader- the injustice that Rose is facing. The kids are a mixed bunch, eldest son Damien has addiction issues, teenaged daughter Lisa barely remembers her Dad but feels it nonetheless. All three of the kids are insightfully written by someone who (I suspect) knows teenagers. Rose’s solicitor Pauline is just the kind of woman you want on your side in a messy divorce, she has just the right levels of vengeance. Sam, Rose’s accountant, is also instrumental in extricating her from the situation- in more ways than one. He’s a nice chap.

The Bella-Swan-Pathetically-Self-Sacrificing-Factor– Rose is a little mature and experienced to take things lying down, and fortunately by the time Ben has magically reappeared she means business. Eight years of no answers, paying the mortgage alone and no child support will do that to a woman I imagine. Following the course of action recommended to her by professionals, Rose has nerves of steel; even while handling other serious issues with her business and her children.

Painting a Picture for your Paperback?– Set around Dublin, the tale has all the warmth that frothy readers have come to expect from an Irish novel, but not in a stereotypical way. The main setting is the regular day to day life of a single parent family.

Evaluation of your eBook?– The beginning works well with Ben’s return highlighting the injustice, which sucks the reader in. The midsection didn’t feel overly eventful, but acted as a slow buildup of tension to the end- which initially felt insufficiently explosive but then picked up with a nice twist after all. The added element of romance was a nice touch. It’s a gentle, uplifting tale driven by interesting, brave characters. It’s not a long book, nicely priced, an easy read about characters worth caring about.

Frothy Ranking: 3.5/5 cocktails.

Can be obtained from:

UK: Amazon for only 49p

US: Not on Amazon, but Kobobooks have it for $7.59.

Always You – Erin Kaye

Back in their university days Sarah and Cahal were the Romeo and Juliet of their time, plotting to marry despite opposition from their very different families. Fast forward twenty years to the present day and we wonder why it never happened, why Sarah is a divorced mother of 2 and Cahal is a divorced father of 3 in Australia. When Cahal is seconded back to Northern Ireland for a few months the past is faced and family mysteries solved. Can Sarah trust again?

Kooks for your Kindle?– There are some lovely characterisations, it really seemed like the characters existed first and then determined the plot, rather than the other way around (not always the case!). Standouts include Sarah’s former mother-in-law, who is in a care home and still adored by Sarah. Her ex-husband Ian and his ill-chosen new wife are well done too, especially as Ian misconstrues Sarah’s caring for his mother as an indication of another chance for them. Sarah’s little sister is no longer so little but that doesn’t stop Sarah from mothering her, keeping a promise made years before.

Cahal has changed a lot since being the teen bad boy, he’s a loving Dad torn between his kids in Australia and the love of his life in Ballyfergus. The state of his parents and siblings is pretty horrifying, as is their desperation. It was good to have some parts of the story told from his point of view, as well as that of Ian.

The Bella-Swan-Pathetically-Self-Sacrificing-Factor– Sarah struggled to rebel against the disapproval of her family back in the day, and old habits seem to die hard. It’s hard to see her bow down when faced with what seems to be unreasonable demands from her father and aunt, but as it turns out, there’s more to it. Thankfully she’s more assertive in her dealings with her ex-husband, while somehow remaining supportive.

Painting a Picture for your Paperback?– Geographically speaking, we are set in Ballyfergus, Northern Ireland, same as we were for Second Time Around, a pretty coastal town (and possibly fictional). We also have snippets in Australia, but the main image left having finished the book is that of modern families, how parents separate and join with other parents to make big combined families. The tale also touches on the logistics of such a set up, especially when spread across the world.

Evaluation of your eBook?– It’s something of a present day retelling of Austen’s classic Persuasion, with added step-families, emigration, substance abuse and other more timely issues. Ultimately though, the essential questions remain; are the couple still meant to be, and can they overcome their differences. The characters were very well done, with rich detail in the history of their relations with each other, and lots of development over the course of the book. Although the romantic outcome wasn’t a surprise, the details of it and the underlying mystery were unpredictable. Totally recommended for a gripping romance/mystery/family drama.

Frothy Ranking: 4/5 cocktails.

Can be obtained from:

UK: Currently 99p on Amazon, not sure how long for.

US: Amazon for $1.99.

Second Time Around – Erin Kaye

Jennifer may be 44 years old, but she looks and feels a lot younger- especially when she discovers the adage is true: You’re only as old as the man you feel! Smalltown Ballyfergus is scandalised- Ben is 28 years old AND he’s her son Matt’s new boss. Singleminded Ben won’t take no for an answer, he’s got it bad, but his Dad’s not about to let his hopes for grandkids pass, especially when there’s the Crawford business empire to hand down.

Unfortunately Jennifer’s own daughter is equally disapproving; Lucy is miserable on her university course and has developed a gambling problem. But finally Lucy has a boyfriend, Oren, who has shown her the joys of being a born again Christian of the Young Earth Creationist persuasion. How can her mother disgrace her so, just when she’s found her path?

Kooks for your Kindle?– Luckily Jennifer had a best friend Donna who was supportive of her new relationship, because most of her family were extremely disapproving- her controlling ex-husband David and his wife, Jennifer’s former friend Maggie, were more concerned about appearances. Matt took it surprisingly well, especially considering he had to work for Ben and was only a few years younger, but he had a sweetly tolerant disposition. The most memorable character had to be Oren, charismatic, manipulative and evangelical. His hold over Lucy caused a rift between her and her mother that looked to become beyond repair. Ben made a strong leading man, mature for his age, but haunted by an older brother whose shoes he’s reluctant to fill.

The Bella-Swan-Pathetically-Self-Sacrificing-Factor– I enjoyed Jennifer’s strength and independence, as well as the way she spoke her mind to Oren, if it had been otherwise, those parts would have been too hard to accept! Her treatment by outsiders as Ben’s girlfriend was heartbreaking, but real, as were her reservations about their future.

Painting a picture for your paperback?– The small town itself wasn’t as scandalised as I had expected, only really the families concerned. The author aims at the warm Irish humour market, which fits the bill, but there were a lot of negative characters to overcome, attempting to thwart the happy ending. Jennifer works in interior design, whereas Lucy and Ben are unknowingly trying to swap places, Lucy hates being in education and would prefer the real world, and Ben is the opposite.

Evaluation of your eBook?– Second Time Around has such an effective ‘bad guy’ that you’ll keep turning pages just to make sure his gets his comeuppance, especially as the world seems to turn against Jennifer. The romance is sweet, while the practicalities of it are realistically dealt with. Oddly, this is the second book I’ve read this week in which someone’s struggling with an addiction to online bingo, which is a bit spooky, but interesting to see how differently they’re handled. It’s a satisfying tale of finding love at any age, and how families come in all shapes and sizes these days.

Frothy Ranking: 3.5/5 cocktails.

Can be obtained from:

UK: On Amazon for £3.99, although recently it was only £1.99, click the price for the latest.

US: Amazon for $6.64.

Me And My Sisters – Sinéad Moriarty

The three Devlin sisters have all gone in very different directions as they approach middle age, and are no longer close. Set in Dublin, this novel has all the warmth and humour you’d expect from an Irish chicklit even though all three characters are seeing their lives come apart at the seams. Julie used to be a relaxed, voracious reader. Now as she’s heading for forty, she’s struggling with four sons under the age of five, three of whom are manic triplets, and a devoted husband who’s distracted by work worries.

Louise is the brains of the family, her hard work and sensible decisions have made her a partner in a law firm, and financially stable. However one drunken mistake leaves her way out of her depth and jeopardises all she’s worked for. Sophie has everything she could possibly want, but she earned it another way: she converted a successful modeling career into becoming a trophy wife. Of course no one knows how hard she’s worked to maintain the position, or how her life will change when her husband makes a catastrophic mistake. It’s only when their lives fall apart that the sisters begin to understand each other as adults.

Kooks for your Kindle?– One of the things I appreciated about this book was the language- even though Julie’s neighbour Marian, who “curses like a drunken sailor” and may have overdone the f-bombs in front of the kids, it was real. None of the characters were two dimensional, even the ladies’ parents had their depths, especially the father, dealing with a neurotic wife, three daughters in trouble and aimless younger son. Julie’s triplets were truly terrifying, and still a little lovable. But mostly terrifying.

The Bella-Swan-Pathetically-Self-Sacrificing-Factor– Sophie and Louise both minimised the self pity and made the best of their situations, but Julie, who suspects her husband of an affair, refuses to deal with the situation at first. But the author has a way of presenting each of the sisters in a way that we understand them all, while seeing how they don’t understand each other. All three of them take a long while to realise they can share their problems.

Evaluation of your eBook?– It’s a surprisingly long book and the format of each of the three taking turns to tell the story keeps it moving at a good speed. The subject matter is nothing new so you might see where it’s going, but there’s a nice twist at the end, and the combination of the three very different sisters works well. The tale gives good examples of how family can drive you nuts, but also save you. I imagine readers with sisters or with crazy kids will identify with this book, and even if you have neither it’s still a great read with plenty of warmth, honesty, drama and compassion. This is my first by this author, but won’t be the last!

Frothy Ranking: 4/5.

Can be obtained from:

UK: Amazon for £3.99, although recently it was on a one day special for 99p- keep an eye out for offers.

US: Not on kindle, but paperbacks can be found here on Amazon. Kobobooks have the ebook for $8.99.

Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? – Claudia Carroll

Irish actress Annie is only twenty-eight years old but wondering what happened to her life- she married the love of her life and lived a fun life in Dublin with a promising career for a while, before finding herself living in the sticks, in the middle of a veterinary practice in a home that’s not her own and overrun with people. Dan is Annie’s husband and took over his late father’s practice three years earlier, and also took over the large family home from his mother- on the condition that they didn’t change a thing. Annie has a part time job but is left to her own devices most of the time while Dan works long hours and the house is invaded by her unemployed young sister-in-law, her interfering mother-in-law, vet colleagues and various neighbours. When opportunity knocks, Annie takes the chance to act in a Broadway play for a year and when the distance takes its toll they decide to take a marriage break for a year.

Kooks for your Kindle?– Plenty of these to go around, although none are unbelievably over the top. Liz, Annie’s friend and colleague in New York is quite the wild woman, but comes crashing down to earth with some very real problems. Jack, Annie’s predatory director, seemed a little reptilian to me, the type to want what he can’t have. Jules, Dan’s little sister is more than just a lovable freeloader, she becomes a good friend and ally to Annie; the only person in Ireland who sees what Annie is going through and interferes to try and keep them together, even if her motives aren’t totally selfless! Annie’s mother is interesting, a diplomat based in Washington with some wisdom to impart and her own way of supporting her daughter. The wanna-be home-wrecking neighbour Lisa is a piece of work, who soon sees Dan as an easy mark and tries to enlist him as her financial sponsor and potential new Dad for her kids.

The Bella-Swan-Pathetically-Self-Sacrificing-Factor– Annie is an enigma- she has the guts to take such a far away job and stand on stage in front of hundreds of people, but she let everybody walk all over her at home. The house was passed on to them by Dan’s mother when she moved to a nearby flat, but they aren’t allowed to change a thing, and the vet practice is adjoining so staff are forever traipsing through the house. To say nothing of the 24 hour a day phone calls. I suppose I’m the opposite, I would have happily pitched a fit at home to get some privacy, but wouldn’t dare get up on stage!

Painting a picture for your paperback?– the aforementioned living situation was horrifying to me, although the close-knit Irish community has its charms. New York is joyously portrayed as the city of Annie’s freedom, where she has a fabulous apartment and some days free to explore the city as a single woman. She’s even lucky enough to go to the Tony awards and the Hamptons, although both take a turn for the disastrous.

Evaluation of your eBook?– It’s a well written, well paced read, hard to put down once it gets going; I finished the whole thing in 4 or 5 hours on a long flight. The ending felt a little anti-climactic, I would have liked to see Annie speak her mind to everyone back home. The writing style is modern, quick and funny, although some descriptions are repeated a few times, and “anyroadup” is deployed with abandon! On the whole, recommended for a quick, charming, entertaining tale with some good turns along the way.

Frothy Ranking: 3.5/5 cocktails.

Can be obtained from:

UK: £3.99 from Amazon, WHSmith, and Waterstones.

US: Unfortunately not currently available as an ebook on Amazon, Kobobooks or Ebooks.