FREE Book Friday: It’s All About the Women!

Welcome to Free Book Friday! Today’s selection is very much focused on women and how we see and manage our lives. Find out more below:

Rosie by Name

Rosie (AKA Alison) works at a high-class escort agency as a receptionist. When her boss asks her to be the special birthday present for his favourite nephew, she can’t help but agree. The boss is the boss after all.

However an evening of surprises, unexpected parents and even the odd spider awaits her. By the end of the night, will she have fulfilled her mission or is her potential pay-rise nothing but a distant dream?

Download this book for FREE today only!

A Brief Guide to Period Pain Management

Period pain: it can be the most excruciating agony and can really ruin your month, every month. Here then, from someone who has suffered from exactly the same problems as you do, is a list of tips and tricks on how to ease the utterly debilitating symptoms.

The wisdom in this little book will enable you to manage the agony of period pain and diminish any future bouts as they occur. It will help turn your miserable months into magical ones!

Download this book for FREE until tomorrow!

The Singing Road and Other Stories

A woman listens to the song of the road and wonders if she has the strength to stay with her husband, this time. A journalist visits the opera and discovers a bitter history of failure alongside the music. An angry young boy finds the beach is not always a place of healing, and two lovers face their last day together with something like courage.

In this collection of twelve thought-provoking stories, a variety of very different characters confront the brokenness and despair of their lives, and begin a tentative journey towards the possibility of hope. Can they ever find their way back to the people they used to be?

Download this book for FREE until tomorrow!

Have a great weekend, everyone.

Anne Brooke Books
The Gathandrian Fantasy Trilogy
Gay Reads UK

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Blog 88: Past Secrets by Cathy Kelly – no real secrets at all …

Behind the shining windows and rose-decked gardens of Summer Street, single mother Faye hides a secret from her teenage daughter Amber. Whilst thirty-three year old Maggie hides one from herself. When fiery Amber decides to throw away her future for love, and Maggie finds herself back home looking after her sick mother, secrets begin to bubble over. The only person on Summer Street who appears to know all the answers is Chrissie Devlin. Wise and kind, she can see into other people’s hearts to solve their problems. Except that this time she has secrets of her own to face …

This all started out very well indeed and I was instantly hooked on Chrissie and her gift of sight, uptight Faye and betrayed Maggie. At the beginning of this book, I loved them all and couldn’t get enough of them, to be honest. Heck I even liked teenage daughter Amber and that, for me, is a very hard sell.

So, a strange kind of kudos to the author then for somehow taking that very strong beginning and tearing the whole thing into tiny pieces. It all starts to go wrong about halfway through when we start finding out those deep dark secrets – and they turn out to be either (a) super-cliched or (b) no kind of decent secret at all.

I mean Faye’s secret is a naughty night out with her callow would-be rocker boyfriend when she gets pregnant with Amber, and then flings herself into a self-imposed Pit of Shame, which means she can never talk about the whole thing and believes she’s some kind of slapper. Really???! To me, as an Essex Gal, that just seems like a decent night out, after which we all have a laugh with our girlfriends and move on. I couldn’t honestly believe Faye would change her whole personality and style so she makes herself unattractive to men for the next eighteen years, and even makes up a marriage and dead husband to put Amber off the scent. It’s totally ridiculous.

Not, however, as ridiculous as Maggie, with whom I lost sympathy when she bounces back from her doomed love affair and meets another more suitable man within about a minute or so. Honestly??? That whole scenario was just laughable, again, and so slushy it made my teeth itch. I also thought her way of getting over being a victim of bullying at school was simply unbelievable, on all counts.

Nor indeed as ridiculous as the whole Amber plot: Amber ditches taking her exams and her plans to be an artist, and runs off to America with her would-be rocker boyfriend – yes, this is exactly the same type of man as her mother had all the trauma about, so doesn’t Ms Kelly know any other kind of Bad Boy? Do they all have to be would-be rockers? How I long for some sweet young heroine to run off with a man who wants to be an accountant and plays cricket for his local village team, but alas I fear I might be waiting a while …. Anyway, Amber soon realises her man is hopeless and leaves him – but not before some passing stranger in the States has offered her a fortune as he loves her artwork (on the strength of one scribbled picture at a party!) and longs above all things to sponsor her talent. Major Unreality Alert!! Is the author playing a trick on us? This one made me laugh out loud this time, and groan too. And yes, in the end, Amber comes home and it’s all marvellous and perfect, etc etc. Yawn …

All this ridiculous plotting would have been just about acceptable, almost, but what really made me angry as a reader was the way Chrissie is held up as a shining example of goodness and yet finally tells her poor husband James about her long-ago infidelity in the most cruel and heartless way I can ever imagine anyone giving that kind of news to their spouse. It’s not Chrissie’s infidelity I had a real problem with (though it is of course hugely cliched again …) but how cold and downright nasty her way of confessing it actually is. I found that scene very shocking, and I really wanted to give her a huge slap and tell her to grow up. I was glad when James walked out – he could definitely get someone a whole lot nicer. However, of course, eventually he comes back and says it doesn’t really matter. Um, again, no. That’s not how betrayal works in real life – the way back is never this easy.

The only characters who kept my sympathy throughout and who were really worth any attention were the lovely Shona (a friend of Maggie’s) and her husband Paul – now they were a class act, very witty and wonderful together, and I wish the book had been about them.

However, all in all, I was relieved to get to the end of all this nonsense. Overall, it’s a mismanaged and mis-written book, in which a strong start is sadly and comprehensibly ruined.

Verdict: 2 stars. Disappointing and frustrating.

Anne Brooke Books
Gay Reads UK
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Blog 69: Happily Ever After by Harriet Evans – Decent Plot with a Too Dim Heroine

Happily ever after

This is a story of a girl who doesn’t believe in happy endings. Or happy families. It’s the story of Eleanor Bee, a shy book-loving girl who vows to turn herself into someone bright, shiny and confident, someone sophisticated. Someone who knows how life works. But life has a funny way of catching us unawares. Turns out that Elle doesn’t know everything about love. Or life. Or how to keep the ones we love safe …

I started off actually liking this well enough, as the set-up was very powerful. I particularly enjoyed Elle’s difficult relationship with her brother – that scene at the start when they’re children is simply brilliant. Sadly, we don’t stay in this childhood moment as we’re quickly tumbled into Elle as a young woman trying to make her way in the publishing world.

Entirely due to the great start, I was prepared to give Elle the benefit of the doubt and kept my determination going for a good 100 pages or so. Gradually it dawned on me that, no matter how much I tried to deny it as a reader, Elle is simply a doormat, and a dull one to boot. Sorry, but she just is. Yes, I know she’s a borderline alcoholic with an alcoholic mother, and surely medically depressed, but every time there’s a crisis she simply just keels over and agrees with whoever the strongest person in any particular scene is. I have to say it’s never her. If you want interesting depressive and/or alcoholic women in your fiction, you’re better off with Marian Keyes. However, there was one moment when I got rather excited because Elle was about to launch into a very justified row with her bitchy boss, but the moment said boss challenges her, Ellie gives in and just agrees. Sigh …

There’s also an allegedly torrid affair between her and another boss, Rory, whom she’s obsessive about but really I just didn’t believe anyone would be interested enough in her to bother. That goes for the on-off relationship with an ex-colleague too – and the moment when she realises (no serious spoilers here) that he’s fathered a child by someone else has to be one of the great clichés of romantic fiction – so clichéd that I couldn’t help but laugh uproariously. Sorry …

Then the storyline jumps again and we’re a few years on and she’s living and working in New York. Sadly she’s not any more interesting than she was in the UK and for the rest of the book, I did even more sighing. The relationships she has with the two possible men she’s supposed to be with are worryingly unrealistic, and indeed neither man is very nice or even interesting. As a result, the ending is nonsensical. Or would have been if I’d cared enough about what happens to her. If the novel had lost 150 pages or so, it might have been better as Elle wouldn’t have been so intensely boring and irritating. That said, the book covers she’s responsible for in her publishing job sound nice – maybe these pictures should have been included in the novel as they would certainly have been more riveting than our heroine. Oh well.

Verdict: 2 stars. Decent enough plot, but a too dim and unlikeable heroine