4 Stars, Book review, Historical fiction, Mystery, Nancy Campbell Allen, Romance

Bee Reviews: The Secret of the India Orchid by Nancy Campbell Allen

thesecretoftheindiaorchidFormat: Kindle edition

Published: 1st August 2017 by Shadow Mountain Publishing

Genres: Historical fiction, Romance, Mystery

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

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Synopsis

Anthony Blake is in love with his best friend’s sister, Sophia Elliot. But his plans to court her are put on hold when he is forced to resume his role as an undercover spy for the Crown. A secret document listing the names of the entire network of British spies-including his own-has been stolen. To protect Sophia, Anthony cuts off all ties to her and exchanges his life as an honourable earl for the façade of a flirtatious playboy.

Heartbroken and confused, Sophia travels to India, hoping to find healing in one of the most exotic regions of the British Empire. But the exotic land isn’t as restful as she had hoped. Instead, she finds herself embroiled in a mystery of a missing sea captain, a possible murder, and a plot that could involve the prince of India. And when Anthony appears at the British Residency, asking questions and keeping his distance from her, she is stunned.

She still loves him, and, in her heart, she knows he loves her too. But how can she rebuild her relationship with him if he won’t confide in her? Does she dare offer her heart to him a second time, or will their love be lost under the India sun?


Review

A copy of this novel was given in exchange for an honest review.

Somehow the fact that this novel is part romance completely missed me when I requested an ARC. Had I known it was a romance novel, I would have skipped it, because I’m human and we tend to stick with what we know. But I’m glad I picked it up because I ended up thoroughly enjoying it!

It’s so difficult writing characters who are complex and likeable, but, for me, the author nailed it perfectly. A book is always easier to read when you like the characters you’re supposed to.

She always insisted that if a man and woman have love and affection, a desire to put each other above all else, that life is liveable under any circumstances.

In terms of the plot, I enjoyed reading about the history between Sophia and Anthony, their funny encounters across the voyage to India, and about the mystery that was to unravel – a missing document containing information that could put all of their lives at risk.

The fact that this novel is set in India also sets it apart from other novels of this genre. It was interesting reading Sophia’s take on being in a completely new country. I managed to devour this book in mere hours and would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a light read with a very satisfying ending.

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4 Stars, Book review, Colleen Hoover, Contemporary, Romance

Bee Reviews: It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover

it ends with us

Format: Kindle edition, 367 pages

Published: 2nd August by Atria Books

Genres: Romance, contemporary

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

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Synopsis

Lily hasn’t always had it easy, but that’s never stopped her from working hard for the life she wants. She’s come a long way from the small town in Maine where she grew up – she graduated from college, moved to Boston, and started her own business. So when she feels a spark with a gorgeous neurosurgeon named Ryle Kincaid, everything in Lily’s life suddenly seems almost too good to be true.

Ryle is assertive, stubborn, and maybe even a little arrogant. He’s also sensitive, brilliant, and has a total soft spot for Lily, but Ryle’s complete aversion to relationships is disturbing.

As questions about her new relationship overwhelm her, so do thoughts of Atlas Corrigan – her first love and a link to the past she left behind. He was her kindred spirit, her protector. When Atlas suddenly reappears, everything Lily has built with Ryle is threatened.

With this bold and deeply personal novel, Colleen Hoover delivers a heart-wrenching story that breaks exciting new ground for her as a writer. It Ends With Us is an unforgettable tale of love that comes at the ultimate price.


Review

Warning: This review contains spoilers and also trigger-warnings for domestic violence.

Okay, so I have very mixed feelings with regards to this book. At first, I’ll be honest, I couldn’t stand it. I loved finding out about Atlas, but that was it. For the first half of the novel, I crawled through it. I hated Ryle, I hated who Lily was when she was with Ryle – but I hated all of this more in the second half of the novel, and this was a good thing.

Imagine all the people you meet in your life. There are so many. They come in like waves, trickling in and out with the tide. Some waves are much bigger and make more of an impact than others. Sometimes the waves bring with them things from deep in the bottom of the sea and they leave those things tossed onto the shore. Imprints against the grains of sand that prove the waves had once been there, long after the tide recedes.

Writing about domestic abuse isn’t easy. Hoover should be commended for writing this in a sensitve, hollistic way. The only thing I didn’t like was how everything worked out so easily. Lily had money, she wasn’t forced to go to work. But this would have been a whole different novel of its own.

I don’t think this is a romance novel. This isn’t about either of Lily’s two love interests. This is about Lily Blossom Bloom (yes, that is her real name) breaking the cycle of abuse, and I’ve never been more proud of a fictional character.

Cycles exist because they are excruciating to break. It takes an astronomical amount of pain and courage to disrupt a familiar pattern. Sometimes it seems easier to just keep running in the same familiar circles, rather than facing the fear of jumping and possibly not landing on your feet.

It’s easy to love someone, slightly less so after they’ve wronged you, but it’s harder still to love yourself enough to leave someone who has hurt you. Lily got there eventually, and it was no easy feat, but she demonstrates the devastating effects of abuse, both from the experience as a bystander, and as a survivor.

Just because someone hurts you doesn’t mean you can simply stop loving them. It’s not a person’s actions that hurt the most. It’s the love. If there was no love attached to the action, the pain would be a little easier to bear.

I’m not sure that this is a book I would read again, but it’s certainly one that everyone should read and take lessons from, which, as Hoover says, is the purpose of the book. It’s not so much for entertainment, but a journey of personal growth in itself.

5 Stars, Ayisha Malik, Book review, Romance, Women's Fiction

Bee Reviews: The Other Half of Happiness by Ayisha Malik (Sofia Khan #2)

the other half of happiness coverFormat: Kindle edition, 448 pages

Released: April 6th 2017 by Zaffre

Genre(s): Women’s Fiction, Romance, Muslim Fiction

Rating:  ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

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Synopsis

Sofia Khan is just married. But no-one told her life was going to be this way…

Her living situation is in dire straits, her husband Conall is distant, and his annoyingly attractive colleague is ringing all sorts of alarm bells.

When her mother forces them into a belated wedding ceremony (elopement: you can run, but you can’t hide), Sofia wonders if it might be a chance to bring them together. But when it forces Conall to confess his darkest secret, it might just tear them apart.

A book to make you smile, laugh and cry, this is the story of a mixed-race marriage and a mixed-up family, for anyone who’s ever struggled to balance their pride with their principles, or stuck around to try to mend a broken heart.


Review

A copy of this novel was given in exchange for an honest review.

I honestly don’t know where to start with this. To impress upon you just how much I enjoyed reading this book, I managed to finish it in five days, a record as of late. I was hooked from the very beginning, something I rarely find in books these days. I was actually constantly going on about it to my friends, another rare thing I get from books these days.

Note to self: Must not become person who pretends their life is perfect via the medium of social media.

Let’s start with the negatives: the book could have done with more editing, Sofia often contradicted herself in places, but this is only a minor detail I picked up on. I also picked up on some typoes but this could be exclusive to the ARC copy.

Everything else: now I really don’t know where to start. Sofia’s perspective was a wonder; she notices everything and points it out in a way you might not have thought of before. She’s by far the funniest protagonist I’ve read of so far, so if you’re looking for a laugh, please pick up this book right away! Sofia and her friends’ endless tales of mischief are hilarious, and her problems as a thirty-something-year-old struggling to make it in a hectic world are still as relatable as the problems of your average protagonist.

People don’t get what they deserve generally, do they?

Mum didn’t deserve to lose her husband. Auntie deserved one who appreciate her. Murderers don’t deserve freedom. But if we all began thinking about what we deserve and what life gives us, well: that way bitterness lies.

Another good reason to pick up the book? Connall O’Flynn. Aside from being Irish (which has its own attractiveness by itself), he’s the strangest, most enigmatic character I’ve come across recently, and this has little to do with the fact that he’s struggling to navigate his way through life as a Muslim convert.

On a slightly more serious note, this novel also touches on issues of perceptions of Islam, without being preach-y. If you’re curious about the end product of the mixing of two completely different cultures, I would certainly recommend this novel. It’s different, funny, insightful, and it will answer all of your basic questions about the religion that we see so much of in the news (for all the wrong reasons).

I told him that brown weddings tend to be less about the bride and groom bound to each other for eternity and more about three hundred guests, bound to the promise of biryani.

This novel is categorised as “Women’s Fiction”, but really, it can be enjoyed by anyone: woman, man, non-binary, Asian, white, Muslim, non-Muslim, etc. This is the first book I’ve ever read with a non-white protagonist and I’ve discovered a whole realm of underrated fiction.

The one thing I’m sad about is that the author is unlikely to write further books about Sofia Khan’s adventures, in favour of writing for a different sort of genre. Which is fair, but this book doesn’t feel like closure for Sofia’s fictional life; rather, the beginning of some new adventures!

3 Stars, Book review, Historical fiction, Romance

Bee Reviews: Unnoticed by Amanda Deed

cover108951-largeFormat: Kindle edition

Published: March 1st 2017 by Rhiza Press

Genre(s): Christian Fiction, Romance, Historical Fiction

Rating:  ★ ★ ★

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Synopsis

Plain Jane O’Reilly is good at being unnoticed. Detested by her stepmother and teased by her stepsisters, Jane has learned the art of avoiding attention. That is until Price Moreland, an American with big dreams, arrives in her small town.

Does she dare to hope someone might notice her?

However, Price Moreland may not be the prince that the whole town thinks him to be. Was his desire to be a missionary a God-given call, or just a good excuse to run from his past?

Complete with an evil stepmother, a missing shoe and a grand ball, Unnoticed takes the time-old Cinderella fairy tale and gives it an Australian twist.


Review

A copy of this book was given in exchange for an honest review.

I’ve read a lot of Christian fiction novels in my time – they’re quite enjoyable in a historical context – but this is definitely the most Christian one I’ve read so far. This is by no means a criticism as it can still be enjoyed by anyone, but more a heads up if it’s not really your thing.

Something I wasn’t sure I could get with was the author’s continuous use of description. You could probably go pages without any real action or dialogue, just the characters reflecting on themselves, which is important but also could happen in other ways. Additionally, miscommunication as a plot line can only be used so many times – and this novel certainly exceeded this.

Aside from this, the characters were pleasantly enjoyable. They were all written in-depth, a far cry from the original telling of Cinderella where people are evil because they just are. Deed certainly displays her deep understanding of human nature in this novel which makes it such a good read. My favourite parts included Deed exploring issues with the Christian community, and when the characters you thought were wicked turned out not to be so wicked after all.

4 Stars, Book review, Romance, Women's Fiction

Bee Reviews: Love in an English Garden by Victoria Connelly

love in an english garden victoria connellyFormat: Kindle, 320 pages

Published: 14th March 2017 by Lake Union Publishing

Genre(s): Women’s Fiction, Romance

Rating:  ★ ★ ★ ★

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Wordery


Synopsis

The Jacobs family has lived at Orley Court for generations. But when Vanessa Jacobs’s husband dies and leaves the property to her, she finds costs spiralling out of control. In order to stay in their beloved home, she and her daughters will have to sell part of it off—a decision that drives a wedge between Vanessa and her live-in mother-in-law.

The new owners of the north wing are Laurence Sturridge and his father, Marcus. Laurence wants to escape the constant pressure of his corporate job in London, while Marcus longs to heal from the grief of losing his wife. Could the beauty of Orley Court offer them a fresh outlook on life?

As the two families embark on a challenging new chapter over the course of a glorious English summer, secrets are revealed and relationships tested. But as Orley Court begins to weave its magic over them, will it be love, above all, that brings the two families together?


Review

A copy of this book was given in exchange for an honest review.

Connelly only had to whisper the words “Orley Court” to have me hooked. Anything to do with old English manor houses, courts, castles, is already a must-read on my list. This novel is every bit promising as the synopsis sounds. Connelly is an exceptional writer who has a power with words that very few authors seem to possess these days.

It was hard to comprehend that he’d never see her again, never hear that warm voice on the end of the phone, never sit at the kitchen table whilst she buzzed about making tea. When a person died, they took away so many little everyday things that could never be replaced.

This is the first book I’ve read by this author so I can’t compare it to her previous works. However, Connelley’s sensational ability to intertwine characters and plots to deliver what stories are really about is rare and astounding. The characters’ backgrounds were so varied which made the novel so much more interesting, displaying the power of the author’s imagination.

He liked the way the old house seemed to talk to him in a succession of squeaky doors and floorboards. He’d heard that old houses breathed and moved,but he hadn’t really paid that any attention until he’d experienced it for himself.

The only thing about this novel was in the middle and towards the end when some of the writing seemed rushed. Dialogue was sometimes emotionless bar the odd bit of punctuation, and there were passages with detail so little that I, as a reader, couldn’t quite envisage what the author wanted me to. But the worst of the poorly-written parts are still better than many of the better-written parts in other novels, and this is what really stood out in the book for me.

I would definitely recommend this novel to anyone who’s interested in the mysterious workings of the world and how sometimes stars align, people meet in all the right places, and the world could be ending but everything just works out.