Books To Take You Away From It All

Tag Archives: England

After the loss of her mother, Chloe Kennedy starts seeing the ghosts that haunted her as a young girl again. Spending time at her grandmother’s country estate in the south of England is her chance to get away from her grief and the spirits that haunt her. Until she meets a mysterious stranger…

Alexander Reade is 157 years dead, with secrets darker than the lake surrounding Grange Hall and a lifelike presence that draws Chloe more strongly than any ghost before. But the bond between them awakens the vengeful spirit of Alexander’s past love, Isobel. And she will stop at nothing to destroy anyone who threatens to take him from her. (From Goodreads.com)

Bubby: Sissy read this book first and warned me to not read it at night, as I would have nightmares and not be able to sleep. I, of course, scoffed at her because I am a strong and powerful woman and nothing scares me! So I went ahead and read it one night while my husband was at work late. The kids were all asleep in their beds (none of which are on the same floor of our house as my bedroom, by the way) and I was all alone. And about 15 minutes in I was terrified out of my mind. It was all I could do to force myself to open up my bedroom closet the next morning for fear that a psychotic ghost would be waiting inside. I should have listened to Sissy!

Sissy: Let’s see–“I should have listened to Sissy”—Ding, ding, ding!  That should be the mantra for your life (everyone’s life, really, except it would read “I WILL listen to Sissy.”).  Also, the part where you said “nothing scares me” is, of course, a complete lie.  Readers:  Bubby is a first class scaredy cat.  In the case of Ghost House by Alexandra Adornetto, however, the fear is well justified.  I also read this book alone at night (well, everyone was asleep but me).  I went to bed (translation:  ran terrified to my bedroom) only to find my dear hubby snoring loudly.  Normally I would have gone down to the guest bedroom to escape the snores, but I was so petrified by the thought of Isobel the creepstash swamp-thing jumping out at me from anywhere en route or in the guest room closet that I simply attached myself to the ghost conquering snorer and lay awake but safe.  Let me add, lest you get the wrong idea, that I really liked this book.  It was full of drama, excitement, romance, and enough ghostly encounters to scare the holy pantalones off me.  Just look at the cover–it’s like Heathcliff meets 21st century teenage medium.

Bubby: We should make it clear here that these are your standard “made bad decisions in life and can’t let go” ghosts, not “evil spawn of Satan” ghosts. We don’t do them Satanic sorts of things – I mean, there’s scary and there’s afraid for your immortal soul scary. We don’t go there. Anyway, my favorite part of Ghost House has to be the ending. Alexandra Adornetto wraps up the story so nicely – all the loose ends are tucked away neatly and everything’s back to normal. And then, in the very last two sentences of the book, BOOM! Massive cliffhanger. Yup. I literally dropped my Kindle on the floor and yelled “What the heck?!?”. I did. You can ask my kids. And the worst part? Ghost House was just barely published. So now I have to wait to find out what on earth is going to happen next. Well played, Alexandra Adornetto. Well played. 4 absolutely flesh-crawling bubbles of creepy from me.

Sissy: There are many characters in this story that we haven’t mentioned; Chloe’s dad who sends her and her brother Rory away because he can’t handle parenting after the death of his wife, the aforementioned Rory, who I wonder how he gets through all this without psychological problems of his own, Granny Fee, who owns “Ghost House”, and Joe, Chloe’s sympathetic English friend. All in all, a terribly  enjoyable read. For daylight only! 3.75 ghostly orbs.

Click HERE to buy Ghost House by Alexandra Adornetto at Amazon.com

© Bubble Bath Books 2014

 


To the student nurses at The Nightingale hospital, the ward sisters are heartless and frightening, with impossibly high standards. But the sisters have troubles of their own…
Violet
The new night sister is not all that she seems. Who is she and what dark secret is she hiding? As the mystery deepens, Sister Wren is determined to find out the truth.
Dora
The student nurse is struggling with her own secret, and with her heartbreak over Nick, the man who got away. A new arrival on the ward brings the chance to put a smile back on her face. But can she really get over Nick so easily?
Millie
Dora’s fellow student is also torn between the two men in her life. But then an unexpected friendship with an elderly patient makes her question where her heart – and her future – really lies.
As the nation mourns the death of King George V, it seems as if nothing is ever going to be the same again, especially for the women at the Nightingale.

Sissy:  Back at the beginning of June we reviewed the first book in this series, The Nightingale Girls.  Much to our delight, we were able to receive a copy of this book, number two in the series, so we just had to read it!  And recommend it to you!

Sissy (again):  Oh, you thought Bubby might chime in about how much she enjoyed the continuing saga of Dora, Helen, and Millie?  You thought she would natter on about the new nurse Violet, or wail about waspish sister Wren?  Well, you thought wrong.  Bubby is, at present, in Spain!  You heard right–Spain!  But I am not jealous.  Oh, no–I would never begrudge Bubby the opportunity to savor the sights of Seville and meander in Madrid.  And I certainly carry no envy concerning her plans to leap over to Lisbon, Portugal, and trot down to Tangier, Morocco.  I am perfectly happy to  stay here and write this blog by myself in the exciting and stimulating environs of small town America.  So, until further notice…

At any rate, The Nightingale Sisters is thoroughly enjoyable, and you will find yourself highly invested in the dramas, highs and lows, and everyday dealings of the nurses at the Nightingale hospital.  4 starched-white bubbles!

Also–Stay tuned for upcoming blogs from me and various guest bloggers in my sister’s absence.  It will be exciting!

Click HERE to buy The Nightingale Sisters by Donna Douglas at Amazon.com

©2014 Bubble Bath Books


Former TV celebrity host Kat Stanford is just days away from starting her dream antique business with her newly widowed mother Iris when she gets a huge shock. Iris has recklessly purchased a dilapidated carriage house, on an isolated country estate, Honeychurch Hall, several hundred miles from London. When Kat arrives at the house, she discovers that Iris has yet another surprise in store. Iris has been writing in secret for years and reluctantly reveals that she’s actually Krystalle Storm, the famous bestselling author of steamy bodice-rippers. The gentry upstairs and those below stairs at Honeychurch Hall regard the newcomers with suspicion and distrust. When the nanny goes missing, the loyal housekeeper ends up dead, and Iris is accused of the murder, Kat realizes she hardly knows her mother at all and wonders if she is—indeed—guilty. Although the six hundred year old estate has endured wars, corruption and Royal favors, it’s the scandals, secrets and lies of the last few decades that must remain buried at all costs. (From Netgalley.com)

Sissy: I really liked this book but I had some issues with it. I liked the setting, the backstory of the main character, Kat, all the secrets and intrigues and the hidden life of Kat’s mother Iris. My issues were that the story jumps around all over the place and I had a hard time keeping it all straight and I couldn’t visualize Honeychurch Estate and really needed a map.

Bubby: I’d like to blame your “issues” on your advanced age and senility, but I can’t. I happen to agree with you on all points. I have to say, however, that the plot is really excellent and the characters are so much fun that I enjoyed Murder At Honeychurch Hall anyway. I loved Iris. She is a total nutcase. Sissy, can’t you just picture our mother hiding in the back bedroom writing romance novels when no one was looking? I swear, I want to be Iris when I grow up. Irascible, eccentric and a famous writer who lives on an estate in England. Perfect.

Sissy: I don’t know about Mom writing “bodice rippers” but I certainly would get a kick out of finding out that she had a secret life while pretending to fit into the role of devoted wife and mother. One of my favorite things in this book was how Iris took every situation and tried to turn it into a scene for her book, much to Kat’s chagrin.

Bubby: Hey, maybe that’s what we should do. Our kids and their romantic issues and trials – suddenly become fodder for a best-selling novel. I can see it!

Sissy: My kids wouldn’t mind. They’d just say, “Hand over the money, Mom!” Back to the book, though. One thing that makes it interesting is that you never quite know who you like and who you can trust amongst the characters. Sometimes you think they are guilty or just unsavory people but then they’ll do something to change your mind and you never know until the end how it’s all going to shake out.

Bubby: As I’ve said before, I can often predict “whodunnit” by the middle of the book. Not this time. I had no idea until the bitter end, when suddenly all the tangled threads of the story came together and it finally all made sense. There was a total ah-ha moment for me at the end there. I still want to know more about Kat – her life as a tv star before the time period of this book and what’s going to happen with her now – and more about Iris’s strange and wonderful childhood, of which we only get a little glimpse.

Sissy: Ah, yes. Gypsies and traveling boxing troupes. Illicit relations between the upstairs and the downstairs –our author, Ms. Dennison has plumbed the depths of her imagination nicely. The one character I hated throughout the whole book was David, Kat’s married boyfriend. The outcome of that relationship our resident Miss Marple, aka Bubby, could see coming a mile away.

Bubby: Seriously? Does any intelligent woman really think that the married man she’s sleeping with is going to actually leave his wife and children and comfortable situation to be with her? Really? It’s like the biggest cliche out there. And yet it still happens every day. Wise up, women of the world! If he’s married, he’s not available! Even if he thinks he is.

Sissy: Well, to sum up, this is a highly imaginative (albeit somewhat confusing) mystery romp. If Ms. Dennison would provide an illustrated map of the grounds and a chart of relationships, perhaps my feeble mind could grasp it better. Nonetheless, I would love to read more about Kat and the indomitable Iris. 3.5 bubbles.

Bubby: A fun mystery read. 3.5 bubbles from me too.

Click HERE to buy Murder At Honeychurch Hall by Hannah Dennison at Amazon.com

© Bubble Bath Books 2014

We received this title from Netgalley in return for a fair and honest review.


The year is 1911. And at The Manor, nothing is as it seems . . .
Lady Charlotte Edmonds: Beautiful, wealthy, and sheltered, Charlotte feels suffocated by the strictures of upper-crust society. She longs to see the world beyond The Manor, to seek out high adventure. And most of all, romance. Janie Seward: Fiery, hardworking, and clever, Janie knows she can be more than just a kitchen maid. But she isn’t sure she possesses the courage — or the means — to break free and follow her passions. Both Charlotte and Janie are ready for change. As their paths overlap in the gilded hallways and dark corridors of The Manor, rules are broken and secrets are revealed. Secrets that will alter the course of their lives. . . forever.

Bubby: Manor of Secrets came at just the right time for me, having finally finished the current season of Downton Abbey last night. It could very well be an account of events at any of the homes of the Crawley associates. Just quite delicious and perfectly British.

Sissy: First thing I am going to do is put on the gown pictured on the front cover, complete with jewels. Then I shall sit down with a spot of tea (less tea, more cream and sugar) and tell you about this delectable froth of an Edwardian mystery romance (Ha! You were thinking it was one of those stuffy Regency romances but you were wrong! Ha!)

Bubby: Methinks there might be something in that “tea” of yours besides cream and sugar, dearest sister. I, for one, am grateful to live in the modern era and not back in the day. Don’t get me wrong – there is something very enticing about the gowns and the jewels and the servants and the estate and all that but with my luck, I would have been a scullery maid instead of the lady of the manor! Besides which, I have never been very good at doing what I was told to do. Or behaving like a lady.

Sissy: No truer words…Also, those empire waists do nothing for those of us who are both height challenged and how shall I say, more “blessed” in certain areas than others?

Bubby: Exactly. Not that I suffer from the height issue, but let’s just say that I am more Dowager Countess in shape than Lady Mary. Unfortunately. In Manor of Secrets, we have two girls who also are not so good at following the rules that society has laid down for them. All Charlotte wants is to be free and all Janie wishes for is to have a place to call home. Neither of them are happy with their lot in life. And both of them want to get to know Lawrence, the handsome footman, just a little bit better.

Sissy: Lawrence needs to be slapped and thrown into the dung heap. Lord Andrew, on the other hand, is a fabulous surprise and he can escort us to the ball any day! In addition to the handsome men in the story, there are scandalous secrets, twists and turns and an ending you don’t see coming. Also, women’s suffrage! Hooray for suffrage!

Bubby: Yes – there is a massive plot twist that I certainly wasn’t expecting but in hindsight makes so much sense. Oh, and a happy ending. Really. What more could we possibly ask for? Beautiful dresses AND intrigue AND romance AND suffrage! Perfect.

Sissy: And so as my bustuousness and I sail into the parlor like the Dowager Countess, I say “Good heavens! Manor of Secrets deserves 4 bubbles.”

Bubby: And as I shake my head and apologize for Sissy and her “bustuousness”, I too give Manor of Secrets 4 bubbles.

Click HERE to buy Manor of Secrets by Katherine Longshore at Amazon.com

We received a copy of this book from Netgalley in return for a fair and honest review.

© Bubble Bath Books 2014


Pru Parke always dreamed of living in England. And after the Dallas native follows an impulse and moves to London, she can’t imagine ever leaving—though she has yet to find a plum position as a head gardener. Now, as the sublet on her flat nears its end, the threat of forced departure looms. Determined to stay in her beloved adopted country, Pru takes small, private gardening jobs throughout the city.

On one such gig in Chelsea, she makes an extraordinary find. Digging in the soil of a potting shed, Pru uncovers an ancient Roman mosaic. But enthusiasm over her discovery is soon dampened when, two days later, she finds in the same spot a man’s bludgeoned corpse. As the London police swarm her work site, ever inquisitive Pru can’t quite manage to distance herself from the investigation—much to the dismay of stern Detective Chief Inspector Christopher Pearse. It seems that, much as he tries, even handsome DCI Pearse can’t keep Pru safe from a brutal killer who thinks she’s already dug up too much. (From Amazon.com)

Bubby: Unfortunately for our readers, both Sissy and I are zombies today. I think that perhaps if I fill the bathtub with diet Coke and submerge myself, I might be able to have half a brain. I think Sissy is worse off though, and cannot be saved. Given these circumstances, I am so glad we have a great book to review. Right Sissy? Sissy? SISSY!

Sissy: I’m here. In body. I thought about bringing you a diet Coke on my way here but obviously that wouldn’t have been nearly enough to bring you out of your current coma. As I was NOT sleeping at 2:00 this morning, I was ruminating about how fab it would be to just take off and go live in England for a bit. My son lives in England right now and even though he loves the people he has met, the thing he talks about most is how wet and cold he is all the time. What a fantasy killer. Nevertheless, all the while reading The Garden Plot I was pulling for Pru to get a job so that she could stay in England, where her heart was. I though it was very clever how Marty Wingate puts a rejection letter from prospective employers at the beginning of every chapter.

Bubby: It was quite clever, especially as each of them talked about different strengths and qualities of poor Pru. If she had been a Brit instead of an expat American, I think many of those jobs would have been hers for the asking!

Sissy: She actually had dual citizenship because her mother was British.  Bubby and I are almost totally British American (there are whisperings of some French Huguenots in there somewhere but nobody can prove it) so I think we should be welcomed with open arms, should we ever cross the pond, by “our people.”  Notwithstanding the revolution and all that. Get over it, already!  One of my new British friends I have met through my son has told me she is trying to get rid of his American accent and turn him into a proper English gentleman.  Speaking of which, Pru meets a lovely one, and the ensuing romance is quite satisfying.  Kudos to the author for making middle-aged women vital and sexy!

Bubby:  Wow, sissy, it looks like you might have finally awakened!  I loved detective inspector Christopher Pearse and the romance that unfolds between him and Pru.  He keeps finding Pru in “hinky” situations, any one of which would cause one to consider abandoning the relationship, but he perseveres!  We see so much showy, flashy, overly physical romance in the books which become available to us, so it was refreshing to have a romantic lead who sees our girl’s heart first and falls for her–patiently waiting for and believing in her.

Sissy:  Most of all, I identified with Pru and was so grateful for her happy ending!  That is not a spoiler because I refuse to read books that don’t have a happy ending; therefore you can rest assured that there will be no book reviewed herein that does not meet a certain requisite happiness quota.  My adult children are always helpfully on the lookout for me–in conversations about movies one might often hear “No, mom should not see that.”

Bubby:  I agree.  I refused to see the play that my son and his friends were involved with at the high school last year because it was too sad.  I don’t want to see the one they are currently doing for the same reason, but I have been told I will be labeled an unfit mother if I don’t attend, so…

Sissy:  The Garden Plot is a charming cosy mystery/romance full of interesting characters and a very relate-able heroine.  Beware creepy neighbors who attach climbing rungs to your shared back fence!  4 bubbles.

Bubby:  Yeah for a delightful contemporary story set in England!  Yeah for English gardens and handsome detective chief inspectors!  4 bubbles from me.

Click HERE to buy The Garden Plot by Marty Wingate at amazon.com

© Bubble Bath Books 2014


For American actress Rebecca Bradley, it is the role of a lifetime: She will star as a 1920s debutante in a film shot entirely on location at a magnificent English country house. The remote setting and high walls of Astbury Hall will provide a much needed refuge from the media glare that surrounds her every move. When Lord Anthony Astbury sees Rebecca in costume, he is stunned by her uncanny resemblance to his grandmother Violet. And when Rebecca discovers a manuscript written by a young Indian woman who visited Astbury Hall in the 1920s, she learns of a love affair so passionate and forbidden it nearly destroyed the Astbury family; a secret Lord Astbury himself does not know. As Rebecca is increasingly cut off from the modern world, Violet’s presence starts to make itself felt in unsettling ways. In the gilded years before World War I, Anahita is a bright and curious Indian girl who never thought she would come to England. But as the companion to a royal princess, she is given rare access to a world of privilege and is sent to an English boarding school. When she meets young Lord Donald Astbury, they share a special bond that is only made stronger by their harrowing wartime experiences. Pressured by his family to marry Violet, an American heiress, Lord Astbury must say good-bye to a love that will haunt him for the rest of his life and inspire a romance for the ages. As Rebecca tries to understand her connection to a tragic love affair sixty years in the past, the story of Donald, Anahita, and Violet unspools to its own shocking conclusion. For Rebecca to find a way back to the life she was meant to lead, she will have to put to rest the ghosts of Lord Anthony’s ancestors or risk repeating their downfall herself. (From Goodreads.com)

Bubby: Yummy, yummy, yummy. Like a chocolate dipped macaroon – but better – The Midnight Rose is rich, deep, dark and delicious. I loved the intertwining of the stories – actress Rebecca’s doomed relationship, Lord Anthony’s secrets, Ari’s life-changing decisions and of course, the long ago romance between Anahita and Lord Astbury. It’s like “Downton Abbey” meets “The Far Pavilions” meets “Beverly Hills 90210”. Awesome.

Sissy: Great metaphor, Bubby. I completely agree. This book starts at the very end of the story and then jumps back and forth between stories and ages. I generally get uneasy when a book starts at the end, because then I think “Who cares? Why should I read this if I already know the end?” The answer to this question, however, is that by reading the book, you learn the whole story and all of the delicious twists and secrets therein. Then the ending you thought you knew looks completely different in context of all you’ve learned.

Bubby: Let’s just talk about the end, shall we? Never in a bazillion years would I have predicted the REAL ending of The Midnight Rose. Let’s just say that there are multiple surprises awaiting you! I so wish I could say more, but I wouldn’t want to be a spoilsport!

Sissy: There’s also a sickly entertaining sociopathic interlude for one of the supporting characters.

Bubby: Yes, Alfred Hitchcock would be proud!

Sissy: Actually, it reminded me of early Mary Higgins Clark. But that’s just one small secondary storyline. So disturbing that I was disturbed that I liked it! The main character Anahita’s life is so exotic, exciting, rich and lush and Lucinda Riley writes it like full color cinematography. It reminded me of the when I was 11 except for not so exciting or rich.

Bubby: What was so exotic about when you were 11? Isn’t that the year you moved to Idaho?

Sissy: It was one of the years we lived in Fiji (those years when Bubby spent the entire time naked) where more than half the population was of Indian descent. So the foods, the clothes, the smells, the memories were evoked by The Midnight Rose. The only things missing were the maharajahs, wealth, castles, and servants.  Also I did not have a nose jewel, although the neighbor asked my mom if I could and she said no.  Where was the fun in that?  This book is a fabulous saga rich in contrasts–wealth and poverty, love and heartbreak, India and England, fame and ignominy, etc.  It is something I imagine as a movie, with one of those breathtaking Bollywood starlets in the main role and Kate Beckinsale as the beleaguered actress Rebecca.

Bubby: Oh, it would make a fabulous movie! And just for the record, I was NOT naked. I usually had at least a diaper on. Usually. I loved The Midnight Rose so much that I went out and bought myself another Lucinda Riley book – for full price! 4 bubbles from me!

Sissy: Maharani Sissy gives it 4.5 bubbles. And an elephant.

Click HERE to buy The Midnight Rose at Amazon.com

We received a copy of The Midnight Rose from the publisher in return for a fair review. No other considerations, monetary or otherwise, were given.

© Bubble Bath Books 2013


Marianne Daventry will do anything to escape the boredom of Bath and the amorous attentions of an unwanted suitor. So when an invitation arrives from her twin sister, Cecily, to join her at a sprawling country estate, she jumps at the chance. Thinking she’ll be able to relax and enjoy her beloved English countryside while her sister snags the handsome heir of Edenbrooke, Marianne finds that even the best laid plans can go awry. From a terrifying run-in with a highwayman to a seemingly harmless flirtation, Marianne finds herself embroiled in an unexpected adventure filled with enough romance and intrigue to keep her mind racing. Will Marianne be able to rein in her traitorous heart, or will a mysterious stranger sweep her off her feet? Fate had something other than a relaxing summer in mind when it sent Marianne to Edenbrooke. (From Goodreads.com)

Sissy: I read this book a few weeks ago and really liked it, but I didn’t tell Bubby about it because she is a Regency romance snob. She is very vocal about the fact that she finds them insipid, inane, redundant, ridiculous. In other words, she doesn’t like them and she considers herself far above the whole genre. (She just tried to blow a raspberry at me and ended up spitting on herself which was quite hilarious and made my day).

Bubby: Did not! (While wiping spit off her own chest . . .)

Sissy: At any rate, imagine my confuzzlement when Bubby calls me and tells me we must review this fabulous book called Edenbrooke. What happened, my uppity snobbish one?

Bubby: You’re right. I don’t particularly care for Regency romances. However, let me just paraphrase what Julianne Donaldson herself said: she grew up reading Georgette Heyer, queen of the Regency genre and wanted to write something similar while making it more accessible to the modern reader. That’s me. Miss Modern Reader, right here. Julianne Donaldson said that she tried to accomplish this by moving the story along at a quicker pace and leaving out some of the unnecessary elements. Thank you very much, Julianne Donaldson. I loved Edenbrooke. It was divine. And I didn’t have to wade through 20 pages of wardrobe descriptions (the third pearl button on the cuff of her French-embroidered soigne twinkled in the reflected light from his 18-karat gold hand engraved cufflinks bought at Snooty DeVillier’s on Broad Street . . .) or 50 pages of “she glanced his way. He caught her eye, so she immediately lowered her countenance and scurried to the rose garden lest he espy the unbecoming rose blush upon her cheeks . ..” and similar time-wasting genre specific garbage. I felt quite refreshed to have a story set in a time period that I am actually quite fond of and not get bored with all the minutiae.

Sissy: Well said, Bubby! Edenbrooke is a delectable story set in Regency England. I really don’t have anything else to say after Bubby’s paragraph. I think she used all the words in the whole dictionary. Our readers should just buy the book, recline on their fainting couches and have a splendid afternoon.

Bubby: Oh come now. Wouldn’t you like to discuss how yummy Sir Phillip is? Almost on par with the admittedly incomparable Colin Firth? Or we could compare and contrast the relationship of Cecily and Marianne to our own sisterly bond.

Sissy: Oooh! I’ll bite! How even though you’re shallow like Cecily and I am grounded like Marianne, we still love each other to bits?

Bubby: Not exactly what I had in mind, but sure. I don’t think either of us have much in common with Cecily, though. She is all about the money and the status and how good she looks sitting side-saddle. We are both more like Marianne. Can you imagine living in a time period when gently bred young women were expected to do nothing more than receive callers, do embroidery and play the piano while looking attractive to possible suitors?

Sissy: We’d have WAY too much fun with that. Kind of like how Keri Russell’s character in Austenland sings something inappropriate whilst playing at the pianoforte.

Bubby: Hmm. Wouldn’t know. Someone went and saw that movie without me. Moving on now!

Sissy: If you read the synopsis of Edenbrooke, you may think that it is indeed a formulaic Regency romance. But Julianne Donaldson’s writing is so refreshing, you feel like you are reading a whole new genre. I give Edenbrooke 4 tightly corseted bubbles.

Bubby: We have family issues, romance all over the place and a perfect setting. What more could one wish for? (I have already purchased Julianne Donaldson’s next book, Blackmoore – that’s how much I liked it!) 4.5 perfectly proper bubbles from me.

Click HERE to buy Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson at Amazon.com

©2013 Bubble Bath Books