Book reviews: Perfect summer beach reads from Simon & Schuster

Perfect summer beach reads from Simon & Schuster
Perfect summer beach reads from Simon & Schuster

Summer is here and publishers Simon & Schuster have a cracking selection of books to keep you company on your travels.

The Night Book by Richard Madeley

Where better to head for the summer than the beautiful Lake District… courtesy of broadcaster and author Richard Madeley, one half of the acclaimed Richard and Judy Book Club.

Madeley, who worked on newspapers and local radio before his TV career took off, harnesses his journalistic knowledge and experience in this dark, high-tension mystery set during the long hot summer of 1976.

Packed with intrigue, drama and a fascinating cast of characters, and all set against the magnificent backdrop of the soaring Lakeland fells and shimmering lakes, this is the perfect companion for that holiday escape.

It’s hot, hot, hot. After weeks of uninterrupted sunshine, the parched mountains and valleys of Cumbria are starting to resemble a Grecian landscape in July 1976. Even the brimming lakes are starting to look shrunken and diminished by the pitiless sun and the discomfort, inconvenience and sleepless nights are starting to take their toll.

People are swimming in delightfully tropic waters to cool off but, barely three feet below the surface, the temperature remains just a degree or so above freezing and as the summer blazes on, a spate of drownings begins.

Meanwhile, Meriel Kidd, the local Lakes radio station’s famous, award-winning agony aunt, has a secret. She keeps a diary but only writes it at night when her controlling, abusive, older husband Cameron Bruton is asleep.

The diary is her psychological escape from the man she now hates and who looks on her misery as his hobby; on its pages are outpourings of the graphic, almost maniacal violence she would secretly like to inflict on him.

So when and where better to stage a murder and pass off Cameron’s death as an accidental drowning? Can Meriel go through with killing him… and could she get away with it?Madeley is

on top form in this exciting and atmospheric mystery, contrasting the sweltering, heat of the famous Lakeland beauty spots with the darkness and danger lurking not just below the surface of the calm waters but also in a troubled mind.

Guilt, fear, passion and revenge all play their part in a story guaranteed to grip from first page to last.

(Simon & Schuster, paperback, £7.99)

Sunshine over Wildflower Cottage by Milly Johnson

Romance, mystery, a touch of magic, and friendships of the human – and feathered – variety! Milly Johnson serves up a potpourri of summer loving in this gorgeous feelgood tale set in the glorious Yorkshire countryside.

The queen of romantic comedy ticks all the required holiday reading boxes in a brilliant concoction of laughter, tears, sunshine and tantalising twists and turns.

When the aptly named Viv Blackbird arrives for the summer at Wildflower Cottage, a tumbledown animal sanctuary specialising in helping rescued birds of prey, her job is to help with the admin, but the truth is that she is here for something much closer to her heart.

The sanctuary, owned by a local vet and run by the kindly Geraldine Hartley, is in an idyllic Yorkshire valley in the ancient hamlet of Ironmist where beautiful love-in-the-mist flowers grow in a carpet of violet blue.

Geraldine, who has a heart of gold, runs the Wildflower Cottage sanctuary but she too has secrets. She escaped from her past to find happiness here, but now her place of refuge is about to come under threat. Can she keep her history at bay and her future safe?

Back home, Viv’s lovable mother Stel, who has a chequered history when it comes to relationships, thinks she might have found a man who will treat her right for once. Ian is kind, considerate and clearly head over heels in love with her. And that’s just what she has wanted all along… or is it?

New beginnings, old secrets, and heartwarming love and friendships for every generation make this an ideal holiday companion for readers young and not-so-young.

(Simon & Schuster, paperback, £7.99)

Out of Practice by Penny Parkes

Take time out this summer with the goings-on at a busy medical practice in a warm and entertaining debut novel from talented new author Penny Parkes who lives in the Cotswolds.

And who could not be charmed by this delightful story which blends romance, real-life issues, intrigue, a lively cast of characters and a seductive setting.

Married mum-of-two and successful GP Holly Graham has relocated her family to join the team at the large country medical practice in pretty Larkford, hoping to find the peaceful life she craves, despite the chaos that comes with her two-year-old twin boys and the troublesome state of her marriage to unreliable Milo.

It will certainly be a challenge to keep her private and professional lives separate in such a tight-knit community, and her new medical colleagues have their own issues to contend with.

The gorgeous Dr Dan Carter is struggling to focus on work and the last thing he needs is any more stress. So having his ambitious ex-girlfriend Dr Julia Channing working alongside him isn’t really helping. Thankfully, the rather delectable Dr Taffy Jones is on hand to distract Holly from her escalating marital problems at home.

Elsewhere, feisty octogenarian, star of stage and screen and resident celebrity Elsie Townsend is Holly’s favourite patient and her saving grace. And Elsie’s inspirational ‘Life Lessons’ come at the perfect moment as the practice is suddenly under threat of imminent closure. It’s time for Holly to rediscover her voice… and just where her priorities lie.

With rivalry, resentment, passion, humour and a page-turning plot, there could be no better place to visit this summer than what turns out to be the far from peaceful medical practice in Larkford!

(Simon & Schuster, paperback, £7.99)

These Days of Ours by Juliet Ashton

Some couples were just meant to be... perfect partners, two halves of a whole, destined to be together forever.

Of course, life – and love – doesn’t always turn out the way it was supposed to… but that won’t happen to childhood sweethearts Kate Minelli and Charlie Garland. Or will it?

Get ready to laugh, smile and shed tears with a bewitching romance from the pen of born storyteller Juliet Ashton, an exciting and perceptive author who has the happy knack of getting to the heart of contemporary family life.

And Ashton has her finger firmly on the pulse of female friendships in this gorgeously witty, warm and wise exploration of the relationship between two young women – best friends and cousins – whose lives are entwined by more than just the normal family bonds.

As we follow them through 35 years of landmark occasions from age five to forty, their loves, losses, fears and friendships turn into a glorious technicolour reflection of the funny things that could happen to us all on the unpredictable journey of life.

Kate Minelli and Becca Neely are cousins and best friends. In terms of looks and character, they are poles apart… Becca is the family’s ‘Pretty One,’ all blonde hair, long legs and ‘va-va-voom’ while Kate is the ‘Clever One,’ short, dark and generally ‘huddled over a book.’

As they grow up together, they share all the most important milestones in their lives and remain very much ‘Kate ’n’ Becca,’ a job lot. If a man wants one of them, he must put up with the other.

The other VIP in Kate’s life is Charlie Garland. They have been in love with each other since Kate was five and Charlie was the only boy at school who understood why Kate wanted an Action Man for her birthday rather than something girlie.

Charlie also understands that Kate and Becca come together as a package, and as the girls start to grow up, Becca’s boyfriend Julian Ames – ‘six foot four of British upper class male’ – has to learn the same lesson.

But the passing years throw up the strangest twists of fate, and when Kate reaches her milestone 40th birthday she looks back on the ‘missed chances, the fluffed catches, the absentees’ and reflects that life never turns out quite how you expect it to…

These Days of Ours is a beautiful, funny and outrageously entertaining tale packed with all the emotions and dramas of two women living through the angst of youth and the all-too-familiar upheavals of births, marriages, illness, deaths and parenthood.

Through the prism of Kate and Becca’s chequered progress – their trials and tribulations, their triumphs and disasters – Ashton shines a bright and acutely observant spotlight on the redeeming power of love, as if to reassure a cynical world that romance is still very much alive.

Family, friendships, love in all its many forms and the ties that bind us together are the lead players in a wry, affectionate and wonderful story that is guaranteed to hit the mark with women of all ages.

(Simon & Schuster, paperback, £7.99)

Timba Comes Home by Sheila Jeffries

And here is a story to melt the hearts of cat lovers everywhere… two little black kittens parted by fate but determined to find each other again.

In the follow-up to her hugely popular books, Solomon’s Tale, and Solomon’s Kitten, born storyteller Sheila Jeffries brings us the moving account of another two kittens from the same litter, Timba and Vati, named after the famous White Lions of the Timbavati Game Reserve in South Africa.

Written through the eyes of Timba, who was abandoned in a ditch along with Vati, we set off on a rollercoaster journey with the courageous kitten as he tries to find his sibling, and meet up with those who will help him on his way.

Timba and Vati made a pact when they were abandoned in a ditch… they are two kittens against the world and will stick together. But when Timba is eventually found by a young boy,Leroy, he is alone and starving. Leroy has a tough life and that is something Timba can relate to… he finds it impossible not to love the sad little boy and be his friend. Through Leroy, Timba also meets Angie, Leroy’s teacher, and they forge a special bond. Angie will help him find Vati, whatever it takes. Can these two black kittens find their way back to each other, and use their cat power to heal the lives of the people they love?

Imbued with the power of love, the author’s innate warmth and compassion, and the magic of the ancient energy lines which Jeffries believes criss-cross the Earth, this is a moving story which will have cat lovers purring with delight.

(Simon & Schuster, paperback, £5.99)