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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Katie Fforde Romance Novels

Katie Fforde Romances

Perfect Match • Recipe for LoveWild Designs

Short stories:
From Scotland with Love

Perfect Match
Perfect Match by Katie Fforde
My rating:         Romance
Source: Publisher (via Netgalley)

A few years ago Bella moved to a new town, mostly to get away from the married man she was madly in love with. She's become a successful estate agent, and she thinks she's happy with boyfriend (and boss) Nevil... until Nevil starts making assumptions about their relationship, just as Dominic stumbles back into her life.

This book is a perfect illustration of why you wouldn't ever want to date your boss, as Bella has to balance her career ambitions against her personal happiness, fearing that she'll be fired if she breaks off her miserable relationship. Her suspicions that Nevil is involved in some dodgy dealings really don't help matters, and before long she's in over her head. Meanwhile, there are several charming scenes as she gets to know Dominic all over again, trying all the while to fix every client up with a perfect property.

Bella and Dominic are a perfect couple; I loved them both and was rooting for them to get together from the moment Dominic arrived on the scene. (Nevil, on the other hand, just annoyed me, but I suspect this was the author's intent!) I also hugely enjoyed the parallel storyline with Bella's aunt Alice, who is also rediscovering the joys of romance at a somewhat older age.

Overall, a charming book that I'm sure to reread.

Recipe for Love
Recipe for Love
My rating:         Romance
Source: Purchased

Zoe quits a crap job to enter a TV cookery competition, but a chance meeting with one of the judges on Day One leaves her with more to think about than her baking abilities. Afraid she'll be disqualified for cheating if she acts on her feelings, she's determined to resist Gideon's charms, even when a perfectly innocent situation results in her spending the night in his bed. But when her catty roommate starts vindictive rumours, she figures that if accusations are flying anyway, she might as well have the hot one-nighter.

As the days fly by and the competition progresses, though, it becomes obvious that she and Gideon have a lot more going for them than one wild night. The only question is whether she can get out of the studio with both the prize and the man of her dreams. Adorable.

Wild Designs
Wild Designs
My rating:         Romance
Source: Purchased

Althea sees losing her job as a chance to pursue her real passion and try to turn gardening into a career, although she realises it might be a struggle.

A competition to design a garden at the Chelsea Flower Show might be just the break she needs, but she can't draw for toffee. When charming architect Patrick offers to teach her, she's delighted, but afraid that spending more time with him might draw them into a relationship that she feels - as a single mother of three - she can ill afford. It doesn't help that she's already attracted to him.

I loved the dynamic between Althea and Patrick, although Althea's preoccupation with her family situation does mean she sometimes comes across as dithering. The ending, however, is simply perfect.

From Scotland With Love
From Scotland With Love by Katie Fforde
My rating:         Romance
Source: Publisher (via Netgalley)

Daisy works in PR for a publishing house, and nothing short of saving her job would make her go up to a desolate house in the Scottish countryside when she should be preparing to celebrate New Year's Eve with her friends in London. When a sudden storm strands her with the grumpy author she's come to appease, however, they both find out there are much worse ways to spend the holidays.

Rory is known all around the office as a difficult character, and from Daisy's initial musings on how difficult he would be, I was afraid he'd be a caricature rather than a three-dimensional character. However, I found his brusque exterior rang perfectly true, and he certainly had plenty of reasons to feel a little bit let down by the world. It was lovely to watch as Daisy, by being perfectly ordinary and down-to-earth, gradually breaks down some of his walls.

Sweet and believable, this is a near-perfect festive short story.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Sous Chef by Michael Gibney

Sous Chef
Sous Chef by Michael Gibney
My rating:         Nonfiction
Source: Publisher (via Netgalley)

How much do you know about what goes on in a restaurant kitchen?

I've worked in professional catering, but I've always managed to avoid this kind of high-pressure restaurant environment... and for good reason. This slim volume gives a blow-by-blow account of a typical day at a small-yet-aspirational restaurant in a big city. There are flaring tempers, culinary disasters, and even a visit from the critics to keep things interesting.

This is one of very few books I've read that are written in second person - but it works to put you in the shoes of the sous chef for a day on the line. A very quick read but one that definitely gives you a feel for the life of an exhausted, ambitious sous chef.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Murder Simply Brewed by Vanetta Chapman

Murder Simply Brewed
Murder Simply Brewed by Vanetta Chapman
My rating:         Mystery
Source: Publisher (via Netgalley)

I've read some of Vanetta Chapman's Amish romance novels before, and always enjoyed them, so I was intrigued to see how the gentle nature of the Amish setting could be incorporated into a crime novel.

To begin with, I should say that this story isn't set exclusively in the Amish community. Rather, the primary setting is an "Amish Village" shopping centre, which employs a number of the local Amish people, while being owned and run by the Englisch.

Hannah is a young Amish woman who works in a quilt shop. When she finds the owner of the neighbouring coffee shop dead, one morning, her life changes completely: she's asked to step up and manage the coffee shop, and though the police put Ethan's death down to a heart attack, Hannah can't stop wondering if there's more to the story. The manager of the Village, Amber, has similar concerns. Told from multiple perspectives, the story follows their attempts to uncover the truth.

I really enjoyed this story. As always, Chapman provides a charming insight into the Amish lifestyle, in this case demonstrating the reactions of a community under an unusual degree of tension. I also appreciated the threads of romance which run through this novel, on both the Amish and English sides. I wasn't quite sure that all of the clues came together (or rather, some red herrings were abandoned altogether rather than being explained away), but altogether it was a very sweet and satisfying read.