Not Just a Place of Cheese & Wine
Daughter of the Hunter Valley by Paula J. Beavan
I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Madeleine has lost her mother and braved the seas to come to the hot, untamed Hunter Valley. Within a day of her arrival, she loses her father - and discovers that he has omitted many things in his letters home. There is no grand house. There is back-breaking work to be done, especially if she wants to hold onto her father's land and his dream. But help can come from unexpected places - and so can love.
A stunning debut novel - and I certainly hope it isn't Beavan's last. I stayed up way too late just to finish this, because I enjoyed the book so much (though now I wish I had savoured it a bit!). A lot of research went into this and it shows. The writing itself is superb and flows so well, which is part of the reason I couldn't put it down. I will admit that I was easily enthralled by the setting because my own ancestors arrived near the area at practically the same time as Madeleine!
The Girl Who Swapped by Emma Baird
Lottie and Josh aren't even out of their teens and are carefree students - so why did they just wake up in the bodies of two 40-something parents with children? Charlotte likes to keep her life in order, but now she's in the body of a young surfer and half a world away from her children. What is going on? And how do Lottie, Josh and Charlotte fix this mess they've found themselves in?
This book had an intriguing concept and a whole lot of potential - a pity that it wasn't fully realised. Some things really should have been fleshed out more, including the characters themselves. They seemed to be reduced to "young and tarty" and "old and boring". Still, there is some fun to be had in The Girl Who Swapped. And Baird's more recent books are much better, courtesy of experience.
Deck the Halls
Highland Christmas (The Highland Books #5)
Alyce Caswell, when she isn't drinking her way through a giant pot of tea, can be found dabbling in multiple genres and writing forms. She has self-published several titles in her space opera family saga, which is divided into two series: The Galactic Pantheon and The Pantheon War. Her most recent book is The Shadow of the Gods.