Summer of sizzling storylines: Choose your next read from these latest page-turners
Veronica Henry’s book is packed with warm characters, family dramas and mishaps
A Family Recipe by Veronica Henry Orion, £7.99
When their two daughters were growing up, Laura was a stay-at-home mother while husband Dom worked as a property developer. Their home was a welcoming safe haven where Laura always had something delicious bubbling on the Aga.
Their daughters are now away at university so Laura hopes that she and Dom can rekindle their romance. She also has plans to transform their home and to transform her life, turning the two spare bedrooms into Airbnb rentals.
So Laura didn’t see the explosion coming. When a stranger tells her some devastating news, it turns her life upside down. Laura finds consolation in cooking and her most treasured possession is her grandmother’s recipe box.
It soon proves to be a source of inspiration and she books a stall at the local artisan food market. Life starts to improve for Laura. She is hurt and angry but she is surviving.
However Dom is falling into debt and despair and Laura must put her feelings aside and come to his rescue. A Family Recipe is an engaging, beautifully written feel-good story with a dual-time structure switching between the modern day with Laura and her family, and the 1940s when Laura’s grandmother Kanga became a new mother.
It makes for a glorious summer read packed with warm characters, family dramas and mishaps. It is an absolute delight.
Koomson’s characters are perfectly formed yet flawed
The Brighton Mermaid by Dorothy Koomson Century, £12.99
One night in 1993, teenagers Nell and Jude sneak out without their parents’ knowledge to go to a party thrown by a local boy. They are making their way home across Brighton Beach in the early hours when they discover a body on the sand.
This young woman is never identified and she becomes known as the Brighton Mermaid. But the discovery of her body changes Nell and Jude’s lives. The police are convinced that Nell and her family are connected to the death. Then Jude disappears.
In the present day, Nell is still obsessed with the Brighton Mermaid and with Jude’s disappearance. She gives up work to spend every minute online, in search of someone, anyone who may hold a clue to the identity of the mermaid and to Jude’s disappearance. And she gradually uncovers a dark story that people with vested interests want to keep secret. The Brighton Mermaid is a mystery story, a crime thriller and a fascinating exploration of relationships, showing how a single event can affect so many lives for so long.
Koomson’s characters are perfectly formed yet flawed, showing her acute insight into the human psyche.
Thanks to their depth and intricately woven, ever-changing relationships, the novel simmers with tension and an undercurrent of darkness.
This is a pacy, engaging tale of human weakness
What Lies Within by Annabelle Thorpe Quercus, £14.99
Freya from England and Hamad from Doha meet at university and feel an instant connection. But this is no love story. It is a tale of friendship that survives a decade until the actions of Freya’s husband Paul and Hamad’s glamorous girlfriend Racine threaten to destroy their lives and their friendships forever.
Annabelle Thorpe’s novel opens with wealthy Hamad making Freya and Paul a generous offer in a bid to repair their crumbling marriage. He asks the couple to move to Marrakech where Paul, an architect, can redesign three historic houses which Hamad bought for Racine in a desperate bid to win back her love.
To Freya he offers an even more tantalising gift: the opportunity to experience adventure and to write the biography of his grandmother Dame Edith, an exotic adventuress. But Edith’s secrets could unravel his life and challenge everything he holds to be true. As Freya is drawn into Morocco’s exotic world, Paul grows distant.
Soon she is questioning whether he has been unfaithful and whether she should be too. Then Racine goes missing and when the truth is revealed it threatens to destroy them all. This is a pacy, engaging tale of human weakness and of passion so overwhelming it can make fools of us all. It warns that you should be careful what you wish for in case it comes true.
This is a tale of betrayal and grief with a dash of romance
The Hideaway by Sheila O’Flanagan Headline Review, £18.99
Juno Ryan watches the evening news and her world collapses around her. She is left devastated by a tragedy and a betrayal and struggles to understand how she was so cruelly misled.
Juno is a radiographer and she knows she needs a rest from her job when she breaks down sobbing on one of her patients.
So when her friend Pilar offers her the use of a family villa in the small town of Beniflor in Spain, Juno accepts. Villa Naranja is not quite the luxury bolthole she had hoped for but she soon settles into a quiet, peaceful life with a cat named Banquo.
The tranquillity of the villa, set among the orange trees, aids the healing process. Juno begins to feel at home even though she is something of a mystery to the local community.
But when she administers emergency first aid to a small boy in the town square she becomes a hero, embraced by the local community.
This is a tale of betrayal and grief with a dash of romance in the shape of Pep, the handsome pool maintenance man, and a cast of colourful characters.
The sultry Spanish location is wonderfully escapist, making The Hideaway a captivating, sun-soaked read.
There is nothing wrong with readable stories about young women making their way in life
Where The Light Gets In by Lucy Dillon Bantam Press, £9.99
Take a large dollop of banality. Stir in enough sugar to give a toddler attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Lace it with unrealistic dialogue and characters no one cares about and ice it with a writing-by-numbers plot.
And then you will have Where The Light Gets In. Lorna lives in London (boo, hiss) and has in the past lost her inheritance on a dodgy art venue so she decides to return to her childhood home and take over a failing art gallery. There she encounters the romantic hero.
You know from the first moment he enters the scene that this is his role and it is so obvious he might as well have had a neon sign flashing “romantic hero” over his head. Lorna also meets various local “characters” and a cranky artist who you just know will turn out to have a complicated personal history and a heart of gold… it’s that kind of book.
There is nothing wrong with readable stories about young women making their way in life and finding love and success. I have read and enjoyed many of them and could still quote you lines of Jilly Cooper I read 30 years ago. But her work was brimming with wit and style. And in comparison Where The Light Gets In is lazy and clichéd.
Her characters are finely drawn and as the story hops back and forth from WW2 to present day
The Wildflowers by Harriet Evans Headline, £7.99
Philandering actor Tony is married to the more talented actress Althea and the couple’s children Ben and Cordelia grow up amid a whirl of privilege and parties. But Tony’s wafer-thin ego demands a steady flow of romantic challenges and his infidelities affect the children deeply.
Into this maelstrom steps Madeline, the daughter of Tony’s childhood enemy Ian.
Her background of neglect and abuse contributes to a tragedy which will blight the Wilde family for years to come. In adulthood Cordelia becomes a world-renowned singer but she is so wrapped up in the sins of the past that she damages her voice and she cannot form lasting relationships.
Ben is blissfully unaware of the incidents of the past so he breaks away and finds happiness. But then the children, now middle-aged, meet up with their dying mother at beachside family home The Bosky.
There they are forced to confront the dark events of the past. Harriet Evans’ engrossing chronicle of the Wilde family shows the consequences of Tony’s selfish actions and explains the mystery of why the family’s idyllic seaside home is abandoned.
Her characters are finely drawn and as the story hops back and forth from the Second World War to the present day, the reader becomes deeply immersed in this charismatic family’s fortunes. The result is that rare and lovely thing, an all-engaging and all-consuming drama.
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