Book Review: Dreaming of Verona by T. A. Williams

Verona is the City of Love. But will Suzie find romance there or, like Romeo and Juliet, will it all end in tears?

When Suzie is hired to accompany spoiled, abrasive Lady Alexandra Tedburn on an all-expenses paid holiday to Italy, she fears the trip will be a disaster.

But she soon discovers there’s more to Alex than shopping and tantrums, and she’s determined to help her realise her potential – against Alex’s authoritarian father’s wishes.

As they settle in Verona, Suzie can’t stop thinking about local artist Michael, who is still mourning the tragic death of his wife. With Suzie’s future uncertain, and Michael’s past
holding him back, it seems there’s no hope for romance in the city of
star-crossed lovers… or is there?

What I Thought:

Yet another heartwarming, romantic novel from T. A. Williams! I’ve grown incredibly fond of T. A. (Trevor) Williams’ ‘Dreaming of…’ series of books, as they’re all a real pick-me-up for gloomy days.

Dreaming of Verona introduces Suzie, whose uncertain job situation leads to adventure among the rich and titled in Italy. What I like most about her is that she doesn’t have to rely on her physical attributes to get along in that circle – she’s a PhD and resourceful, and not intimidated to suddenly have a prosperous social life! I can’t abide girls in romantic fiction that are waiting to be saved – although this wouldn’t be romantic fiction without romance, you get the impression that Suzie would do just as well on her own…

With his descriptive writing, Trevor’s love of Italy shines through, and there is plenty of background information about the setting, and the connection to Shakespeare, and Romeo and Juliet, but this never overwhelms the central, romantic plot of the story. It appeals to me as a history lover and works well overall.

Through the drama and, sometimes, disappointment that Suzie has to deal with, the story always delivers on what it is – a romance novel – and it’s so easy to lose yourself in this lovely world for a while. Escapism? Wish fulfilment? YES PLEASE! Looking forward to the next instalment…

Dreaming of Verona is published by Canelo, and released on 3rd February.

To find out more about T. A. Williams, and his books, you can check out his website. Alternatively, why not connect with him on Twitter?

This post is part of a blog blitz to celebrate the publication of Dreaming of Verona – why not check out Twitter for lots more reviews and exclusive content?

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Blog Tour: A Messy Affair by Elizabeth Mundy

The only way is murder…

Lena Szarka, a Hungarian cleaner working in London, is forced to brush up on her detective skills for a third time when her cousin Sarika is plunged into danger.

Sarika and her reality TV star boyfriend Terry both receive threatening notes.  When Terry stops calling, Lena assumes he’s lost interest. Until he turns up. Dead. Lena knows she must act fast to keep her cousin from the same fate. 

Scrubbing her way through the grubby world of reality television, online dating and betrayed lovers, Lena finds it harder than she thought to discern what’s real – and what’s just for the cameras. 

What I Thought:

I was thrilled to see a third instalment of the Lena Szarka mysteries, as I reviewed A Clean Canvas, the second book, a little while ago.

As with that book, A Messy Affair is contemporary mystery with the twist that Lena can get to places other detectives can’t reach, as nobody ever looks twice at the cleaner. Lena uses her profession, and her no-nonsense Hungarian roots, to solve the murder of a reality TV star, who was seeing her young cousin – unfortunately Sarika has NOT inherited Lena’s savvy!

The mystery is really well written in this book, as there are lots of twists and turns, as Elizabeth Mundy expertly presents several promising suspects, all with valid reasons to do away with Terry Tibbs. The resolution is dramatic and pacy, and you’ll fly through the final few pages.

In this book, I particularly liked the development of Lena’s relationship with PC Cartwright, which had been introduced in the previous novels. Although this part of the plot might make you want to read the series in order, you’re not really missing out if you read A Messy Affair first.

Overall, this is an excellent addition to the Lena Szarka (Layna, not Leena!) series, and I’m excited to see where her nose for trouble, and her cleaning business take her next!

A Messy Affair is published by Constable.

You can find out more about Elizabeth Mundy, and the Lena Szarka books, by visiting her website. Alternatively, you can connect with Elizabeth on Twitter.

This review is part of a blog tour to celebrate the release of A Messy Affair. If you would like to read more reviews, or take a look at some exclusive content, why not check out some of the brilliant blogs below?

Please note: I was sent a copy of A Messy Affair via Netgalley for review purposes. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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Book Review: Dreaming of Tuscany by T. A. Williams

The glamour of Hollywood. The magic of the Tuscan countryside. One big decision…

Beatrice Kingdom (Bee to her friends) wakes up in hospital in Tuscany. After an accident on a film set leaves her burned and scarred, she feels her whole life has been turned upside down.

Bee is offered the chance of recuperating in a stunning Tuscan villa in the company of a world-famous film star, the irascible Mimi Robertson. Here amid the vines and olive groves, Bee quickly finds there’s more to the place than meets the eye, not least a certain Luca (and Romeo the dog).

As she comes to terms with her injuries and her new life takes shape, Bee will have to travel a road of self-discovery… and make a huge decision.

What I Thought:

Today I bring you another of T. A. Williams’ Dreaming Of… series! I’ll admit right away that this is a review full of praise, because I love this series of novels which are set in a variety of Italian and French locations and are the very definition of escapism.

In these uncertain times of doom and gloom, to pick up a novel that is full of sunshine is very welcome indeed and Dreaming of Tuscany certainly fills the brief!

I think what I like most about these books is that the main characters, although set down in unusual situations, are just ordinary women. In this book, Bee is highly relatable and is a clever, educated woman who is making opportunities for herself in her chosen career.

Although the situation that puts Bee in an Italian villa with a Hollywood actress is unconventional, it’s easy to roll with it as the book is written with such charm.

You can tell when you read any of his books that T. A. Williams (Trevor) knows what he’s talking about as he paints the scenes in the towns, villages and countryside of Tuscany so vividly that it brings it all to life as you read. Having travelled in that area many years ago, there was plenty that I recognised.

One tip when reading these books is to look out for the Black Lab – there’s always one in there and they all have unique characters but always, always, have a deep love of food!

This book, and the others in the series, are definitely recommended – there’s a new one coming out early next year, so I’m looking forward to it already…

Dreaming of Tuscany is published by Canelo.

To find out more about T. A. Williams and his other books, why not check out his website? Alternatively, you can connect with him on Twitter.

Please note: I received a copy of this book from Netgalley for review. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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Blog Blitz: Charles and Ada: the computer’s most passionate partnership by James Essinger

The partnership of Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace was one that would change science forever.

They were an unlikely pair – one the professor son of a banker, the other the only child of an acclaimed poet and a social-reforming mathematician – but perhaps that is why their work is so revolutionary. 

They were the pioneers of computer science, creating plans for what could have been the first computer. They each saw things the other did not; it may have been Charles who designed the machines, but it was Ada who could see their potential. 

But what were they like? And how did they work together? Using previously unpublished correspondence between them , Charles and Ada explores the relationship between two remarkable people who shared dreams far ahead of their time.

What I Thought:

A rare foray into non-fiction for me today, and a subject I find quite fascinating – the very earliest inventions that can be traced to modern computing and the work of Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace.

In Charles and Ada, James Essinger paints a vivid protrait of the relationship between Babbage and Lovelace from their first meeting, through to her tragically early death from cancer, using primary sources researched over what must have been endless hours in the British Library.

Although the book makes no commitment on the true nature of their relationship, it’s clear from the quoted passages from their letters that Babbage and Lovelace had a very close and warm friendship at the very least. I know it’s tempting to want to assign a romantic angle to these kinds of historical relationships, but I like that this book stops short from doing so, as we simply don’t know.

There is a great deal of information here about Charles and Ada, and their revolutionary ideas about maths and inventions that would prove to be before their time and it’s clear that the book has been lovingly and comprehensively researched. The extracts from their letters and written works are chosen well to show the essence of the pair as people, but also their fondness for each other, despite Babbage clearly being a somewhat irascible man!

If I had to bring up anything I would improve about the book, it’s that I would love to have heard more from Ada – although she obviously features heavily, I still feel that more could be said about her, especially given the very firm views of those who would make her a footnote in the life of Charles Babbage, rather than a valued confidante and an equal in mathematical ability.

This book is an excellent starting point in examining the lives of Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace, with a comprehensive list of the source material enclosed meaning that, should you wish to read further about either of these revolutionary figures, you can find many excellent places in which to start.

Charles and Ada is published by The History Press.

To find out more about James Essinger and his work, you can check out his website. Alternatively, why not connect with him on Twitter?

Please note: I was sent a copy of this book for review. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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Book Review: Other Words for Smoke by Sarah Maria Griffin

The house at the end of the lane burned down, and Rita Frost and her teenage ward, Bevan, were never seen again. The townspeople never learned what happened. Only Mae and her brother Rossa know the truth; they spent two summers with Rita and Bevan, two of the strangest summers of their lives…

Because nothing in that house was as it seemed: a cat who was more than a cat, and a dark power called Sweet James that lurked behind the wallpaper, enthralling Bevan with whispers of neon magic and escape.

And in the summer heat, Mae became equally as enthralled with Bevan. Desperately in the grips of first love, she’d give the other girl anything. A dangerous offer when all that Sweet James desired was a taste of new flesh…

What I Thought:

Having loved Spare and Found Parts, picking up Other Words for Smoke was very easy indeed. For a start, it’s a thing of beauty – I’m a sucker for foil details and a sprayed edge – but the beauty continues within, with some of the most lyrical and magical writing that you could ever hope to read.

Magic is at the heart of this book, the magic created by women and the raw, primal magic that exists beyond the world. As the early stages of the book are seen from Rossa and Mae’s points of view, the magical elements of the house are revealed slowly as we are let in on the many secrets hidden in the walls,

I was lucky enought to hear Sarah Maria Griffin speak at YALC this year, and she explained that the house is a representation of Ireland, and Irish history built on the suffering of women and that really comes through clearly. There are instances in Rita’s life which draw on the Magdalene laundries and, while those institutions might be shuttered for good, their reach in Ireland and in the lives of these characters is long and deep.

There are several different voices at play here, which allows us to delve more deeply into each character, with Bevan being interesting and likeable/unlikeable/compelling all at the same time. She toys with the forces in the house and can’t stop herself, even when she wants to and causes a quiet kind of havoc until the walls finally come crashing down.

I can’t be particularly more specific in this review for fear of spoiling, but there are some passages that you will read over and over again, as they are more akin to poetry than prose, but they still push the story forward at a comfortable pace.

You’d really be doing yourself a favour if you picked up any of Sarah Maria Griffin’s work, there’s just something undefinable about her writing that, like this book, has magic in it.

Other Words for Smoke is published by Titan Books.

To find out more about Sarah Maria Griffin, the best place to find her is on Instagram, or you can connect with her on Twitter.

Please note: I was sent a copy of this book for review. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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