Book reviews: Spring into a new season of romance with Orion Books

Spring into a new season of romance with Orion Books
Spring into a new season of romance with Orion Books

Head off to the Cornish sunshine for a sparkling mystery, meet an Irish family with a load of troubles and follow the fortunes of a wartime schoolteacher in three new exciting books from Orion Publishing.

The Returning Tide by Liz Fenwick

Cancel all appointments, switch off your phone and put out the ‘Do Not Disturb’ notice because Liz Fenwick is back with another breathtaking Cornish odyssey.

There won’t be a moment to spare until the sparkling seas of The Returning Tide have retreated as a sumptuous, scintillating wartime tale of love, loss, betrayal and heartbreak unfolds amidst a picturesque coastal village.

Fenwick, a Massachusetts-born ex-pat who fell in love with an Englishman and now enjoys family life in beautiful Cornwall, has put the county firmly in the spotlight with a string of ravishing novels including the critically acclaimed Under a Cornish Sky and A Cornish Affair.

Her new, addictive saga packs a powerful and emotionally-charged punch with its awesome backdrop, compelling wartime drama, cast of intriguing characters and a sweeping storyline full of mystery, dark secrets, friendships and romance.

The family of Elle Rowse gather at the beautiful house Windward in Mawnan Smith near Falmouth in May of 2015 to celebrate the marriage of her radiant great granddaughter Peta to her fiancé Fred Polcrebar.

In a few days it will also be the 70th anniversary of Victory in Europe but Elle would rather forget the war than celebrate the historic victory. ‘Some things should be forgotten,’ she muses, ‘and my war was one such thing.’

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, Lara’s beloved great grandfather is slowly dying in a rest home. His English wife Amelia died after only six years of marriage, cutting tragically short a romance that everyone said was a true love story.

But in his dying moments, the old man mutters just one name… Adele. With her own marriage about to end and with six months paid leave from work, Lara heads off to stay with a family friend in Cornwall determined to learn more about her great grandfather’s life when he was stationed there in 1945.

What she uncovers is a tale of one reckless act that is still echoing across seven decades…

Families take centre stage in this haunting, cross-generational story which is packed with fascinating wartime detail as Fenwick’s carefully crafted prose slips seamlessly between past and present, darkness and light, hope and despair.

Relationships in both timescales are forged, broken and redeemed, and all come under the microscope as personal histories collide in suitably dramatic style.

Authentic, stylish and evocative, The Returning Tide is both a visual and storytelling delight.

(Orion, paperback, £12.99)

Secrets of a Happy Marriage by Cathy Kelly

Meet the Brannigans… a charismatic Irish family with more than their fair share of troubles!

Bess Brannigan, matriarch of an entertaining clan of powerful females, is just one of the stars of a sparkling new saga from the irrepressible Cathy Kelly, an author from County Wicklow who has earned a reputation as a queen of Irish fiction.

Kelly has a gift for tackling some dark and difficult topics – whether it’s family, friendships, marriages or divorces – with lashings of her trademark Irish wit, warmth and wisdom.

And her new novel, Secrets of a Happy Marriage, certainly hits the mark with her army of readers in a funny, heartwarming, rollercoaster ride full of secrets, lies and complicated family ties.

Bess Brannigan is hoping to show everyone just how happy her recent marriage to Edward is, but behind all the planning for her new husband’s 70th birthday party the cracks are beginning to show. Why is joining a family proving to be so difficult?

Jojo, Bess’s stepdaughter, has a point to make. Bess is just her stepmother and she won’t replace her real mother Lottie who died two years ago and whom Jojo still misses every day. And as Jojo starts the emotional journey of IVF, she wonders if she will ever get the chance to become a mum herself.

Meanwhile, her cousin Cari is a fierce career woman who isn’t unnerved by anything… apart from facing Barney, the man who left her at the altar three years, and who she discovers is on the guest list. Her job as an editor has been a safe place to hide ever since, but maybe the time has come to let love into her life again.

Will the Brannigans ever discover the secrets of a happy marriage… before it’s too late?

Get ready to laugh, cry and smile as Kelly takes us through the highs and lows, despairs and delights of life with the Brannigans, offering words of wisdom from the great and good at the start of each chapter and adding her own unique brand of humour and reality.

Kelly is on top form here with her eclectic mix of appealing characters, addictive gossipy charm, affecting dramas and emotional intensity. Don’t miss it!

(Orion, hardback, £14.99)

Evie’s Victory by Kitty Danton

Young Devon schoolteacher Evie Yeo has been winning the hearts of thousands of readers since the first book in Kitty Danton’s nostalgic Dartmoor Chronicles series hit the shelves.

Through Evie’s War and Evie’s Allies, we have followed the likeable young woman’s hopes and fears, joys and disasters as she struggles to cope with life and love in an English village during the long years of the Second World War.

Danton is a born and bred Devonian and these evocative and entertaining sagas were inspired by the experiences of her mother June during the war years. Drawing on the tales of an earlier generation, Danton sweeps us away to an age of blackout, rationing, romance, friendship, tragedy and the community spirit that kept the country and its people afloat.

At the heart of these lively stories is Evie whose dreams of working in a big city were scuppered by the onset of hostilities. She had feared that life would be dull in her quiet home village of Lymbridge but, after landing a job at the local primary school, wartime seems to have been throwing up the most unexpected twists and turns.

After having her heart broken twice, Evie has now sworn off men and is focusing on her job teaching at the village school where classes have burgeoned since scores of evacuees arrived.

In Evie’s Victory, we find our heroine determined to make 1942 a very different type of year. Gone would be ‘the feckless Evie, mooning over one faithless man after another, and in would come a bolder and more positive Evie.’

Her nearest and dearest, the war effort for the boys on the front, and her class of infant pupils will be getting all of her attention this year and nothing will soften her resolve.

Though rations are slim, and work is hard with the men away, Evie knows she is lucky to have her friends and family around her, even if they don’t always agree on each other’s fashion choices, hobbies or love. They have supported her through a broken heart more than once so she knows they will stick together even when there are new suitors, new babies or new jobs to contend with.

But as the snow falls, Evie realises it might be harder than she thought to put the past behind her and find her happy ending. And when the trauma of war is felt even in the usually peaceful village, there are fears that Evie and those she cares about might not emerge unscathed from the conflict…

Danton’s engaging cast of characters, including her colourful family, her lively pals and her pupils and colleagues, have become as familiar as our own friends and their loves, losses, dramas and dilemmas have been a delight.

An enchanting series from an exciting new storyteller…

(Orion, hardback, £19.99)