ARC REVIEW: The Liar’s Daughter – by Claire Allan

Title: The Liar’s Daughter
Author: Claire Allan
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: January 23rd 2020
Publisher: Avon
Finished reading: January 6th 2020 
Pages: 400

“There’s a time in a person’s life, if they are truly, truly wicked, when they move beyond the point of redemption.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Avon in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I loved my first experience with Claire Allan‘s psychological thrillers last year and I’ve been looking forward to read more of her work ever since… I was going to read her thriller debut Her Name Was Rose next, but of course I couldn’t say no to reading her newest story The Liar’s Daughter first when the opportunity arose. I admit I was sold as soon as I read the blurb and guessed there would probably be something dark and ominous about this psychological thriller.

The Liar’s Daughter is by no means an easy read and incorporates difficult topics including child abuse, manipulation, cancer and mental health. Especially the first is trigger warning worthy, as it plays a big role in the story and can be hard to stomach in points… That said, I think that Claire Allan did an excellent job both describing and shining a light on the effects and consequences on the victims even years later. Shame, fear and manipulation often force victims to stay silent about their suffering and this story shows just how much it can destroy a life as well as affect those close to the persons involved. I do have to say that I wasn’t a fan of any of the characters though and that includes Ciara and Heidi, who should be easy to feel sympathy for. Joe McKee is of course the true villian despite him being on his deathbed, and he definitely will not win your sympathy (quite the contrary!). Ciara’s partner Stella is probably the most easy to like, although she doesn’t really play a big role in the story as a whole.

Unlikeable characters aside, there is no doubt that The Liar’s Daughter is a super engaging, quick and intriguing read. I literally started and finished it in less than a day! The prose is easy to read and you will find yourself flying through the pages as you want to discover if your guesses turn out to be right. I have to admit that I found the plot to be quite predictable and I guessed a lot of the plot twists really early on. It might just be that I’ve read too many thrillers in recent years, but it did put a minor damper on things… As a whole it was still a very entertaining read though.

The Liar’s Daughter is one of those psychological thrillers you will find yourself reading in record speed despite a somewhat predictable plot. Some parts are quite uncomfortable, especially those related to child abuse and Joe’s character in general, but the situation is well described and used to help shine a light on the problem instead of just looking for a way to ‘spice up’ the plot. If you are looking for a quick and engaging psychological thriller and don’t mind some troubling moments and heavy elements, The Liar’s Daughter is an excellent choice.


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: Six Wicked Reasons – by Jo Spain #blogtour #SixWickedReasons @QuercusBooks @SpainJoanne

Hello and welcome to my stop of the Six Wicked Reasons blog tour! A huge thanks to Milly Reid and Quercus for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. After enjoying Jo Spain’s work in the past I just couldn’t say no to the chance to read her newest early… And it was without doubt another winner! Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts.

Title: Six Wicked Reasons
Author: Jo Spain
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: January 16th 2020
Publisher: Quercus
Finished reading: December 31st 2019
Pages: 432

“If the detective scratched hard enough, he’d surely find a motive for each of them to have killed Frazer.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Quercus in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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** Happy publication day!! **

One family. One night. Ten years of lies. And six wicked reasons to kill someone. Talk about an enticing blurb! I admit that I was sold as soon as I read the blurb of Six Wicked Reasons and I have been looking forward to dive into Jo Spain‘s newest ever since I first heard about it. I had that feeling of premonition that it was going to be a scorcher and one heck of a ride, and guess what?! My intuition turned out to be absolutely right!

The blurb talks about a clever and gripping thriller, and I can definitely agree with that. The power of Six Wicked Reasons is in its slow building up of tension and suspense, only to blow you completely away once you reach the mayor plot twists near the ending. Trust me, you might guess part of it, but you will never guess the full truth of this brilliantly executed and clever plot twist bomb! What a way to mess with the minds of us readers… It doesn’t happen all that often anymore, but I always love it when thrillers manage to surprise me the way Six Wicked Reasons managed to do.

Six Wicked Reasons is told with the help of multiple POVs, giving us insight in both the perspective of the different members of the Lattimer family and those investigating the death of Frazer. I do confess it was a bit of a struggle having to juggle so many different characters and perspectives in the beginning, slowing down the pace considerably and making it harder to keep track of everyone. Especially since each character seemed to be hiding something and is most definitely treated as a suspect, making you want to remember all the details while you search for clues, and this can become a little daunting. BUT. Once you get used to the big cast of characters and start differentiating both their personality traits, little quirks and hints at secrets, things are getting a whole lot more entertaining.

The main focus in Six Wicked Reasons is on two important events: the disappearance (and reappearance after ten years) of one of Frazer Lattimer’s sons, Adam, and the death of Frazer himself. Switching back and forth between past and present, we slowly learn more about the different members of the Lattimer family and what secrets they are hiding. Especially relating to Frazer’s death: everyone seems to be having a plausible motive and reason to want the old man dead, but which of them is guilty? Or was it all an accident? And what happened to Adam all those years ago? There are a lot of questions involved and while some get answered along the way, you will mostly find yourself with more questions than answers during most of the ride. This slow building of suspense definitely makes the bang of the plot twist bomb ending feel all the bigger!

As for the characters… I have to be honest here and say I wasn’t really a fan of most of them. That feeling aside, it definitely shows it wasn’t easy for the Lattimer siblings to grow up with Frazer as a father, and it was truly intriguing to see their flawed characters being developed in a realistic way. They weren’t exactly likeable, but they made for a very interesting cast of characters and I had fun trying to figure them out. The whole question of who was behind Frazer’s death was a great start for some serious sleuthing and you will come to suspect every single one of the persons on that boat. The perfect locked-room mystery and with an outcome I definitely didn’t see coming!

I think I mentioned more than one wicked reason why you should read this thriller in my rambles above… But in short: if you are looking for a well constructed, slow building and cleverly executed thriller with an ending that will blow your mind, make sure to get your copy of Six Wicked Reasons ASAP!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jo Spain is the author of the Inspector Tom Reynolds series. Her first book, top ten bestseller With Our Blessing, was a finalist in the 2015 Richard and Judy Search for a Bestseller. The Confession her first standalone thriller, was a number one bestseller and translated all over the world.

Jo is a graduate of Trinity College Dublin, a former political advisor in the Irish parliament and former vice-chair of InterTrade Ireland business body.
She now writes novels and screenplays full-time. Her first co-written TV show TAKEN DOWN was broadcast in Ireland in 2018 and bought by international distributors Fremantle.

Jo lives in Dublin with her husband and four young children. In her spare time (she has four children, there is no spare time really) she likes to read. Her favourite authors include Pierre Lemaitre, Jo Nesbo, Liane Moriarty, Fred Vargas and Louise Penny. She also watches TV detective series and was slightly obsessed with The Bridge, Trapped and The Missing.

Jo thinks up her plots on long runs in the woods. Her husband sleeps with one eye open and all her friends have looked at her strangely since she won her publishing deal.


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DNF ARC REVIEW: Dark Mother Earth – by Kristian Novak

Title: Dark Mother Earth
Author: Kristian Novak
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
First published: 2013
Publisher: Amazon Crossing
Finished reading: January 6th 2020
Pages: 304
DNF at 31% (95 pages)
(Originally written in Croatian: ‘Črna mati zemla’)

“At a time when no one but Matija Dolenčec cared about this, he was prepared to do almost anything to write one more good story.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Amazon Crossing in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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WARNING: unpopular opinion ahead!!

I always love discovering new international authors and translations enable us to discover books that otherwise wouldn’t have been available to us. I don’t think I’ve read a book by a Croatian author before, and after reading the blurb of Dark Mother Earth and seeing the extremely high rating on Goodreads, I was convinced I had found the perfect title to remedy that. I really thought that I was going to enjoy this one, especially with such a fantastic blurb, but I guess it just wasn’t ment to be… I really hate having a DNF this early in the year already, but I just couldn’t get myself to keep reading in the end. I’ll try to explain below why.

I’ll keep this short, but there were quite a few factors that played a role in my decision to DNF. Not only did I find that the story is too chaotic, superslow and nothing really makes sense, but I also felt that nothing much seems to be happening even almost a third into the book. I wasn’t a fan of the writing style at all… It feels like random words and thoughts have been put on paper without a proper meaning or order, and it sounded more like random ramblings rather than a cohesive story. The characters are absolutely despicable and their ramblings and character development hardly make any sense. Or at least the minimum development I could see in the first third of the book… Also, there is way too much sex talk involved, and in a disrespectful way too. Confusing, tedious, dull, frustrating and quite frankly simply exasperating; trust me, I really tried and gave this book multiple second chances, but in the end I just couldn’t force myself to keep reading to see if things would improve. I guess this book most definitely wasn’t for me… I seem to be in the minority though, so if you think this could be your cup of tea you might want to try it anyway. I guess it’s unpopular opinion time again!


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ARC REVIEW: Big Lies In A Small Town – by Diane Chamberlain

Title: Big Lies In A Small Town
Author: Diane Chamberlain
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery
First published: January 14th 2020
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Finished reading: January 5th 2020
Pages: 400

“I stared at the signature a while longer, wondering how a life that had started with so much promise could now be shrouded in such mystery.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I’ve heard so many great things about Diane Chamberlain‘s stories over the years and I’m still not sure why it took me this long to finally pick up one of her titles. I must have more than one title waiting on my kindle, but somehow other books always got in the way… That’s why I thought having an ARC of her newest title, and therefore a deadline, would be the perfect little push I needed to finally remedy this. The fact that the blurb of Big Lies In A Small Town sounds absolutely fascinating definitely helped that decision… Now that I’ve had the chance to finally try her work, I will definitely come back for more soon!

What made Big Lies In A Small Town so successful for me? There were quite a few factors, but let’s start with the basics of the plot. The story is told with the help of a dual timeline and two POVs, something that can go either way for me as it is very hard to get the balance between past and present just right. I think Diane Chamberlain hit the nail on the head with this story though. I felt both Morgan in the present and Anna in the past were equally important, equally well developed and equally crucial to the plot. The dual timeline structure turned this story into a complex, rich and very much satisfying historical fiction read… The POV switches only adding to the suspense and the mystery around Anna and the mural instead of distracting you.

There are a lot of different elements in play in both past and present POVs. We have Morgan with elements including DUI, prison, alcoholism, feelings of guilt, art restoration work, family and even romance. Then we have Anna with elements including racism and the South, gender discrimination, abuse, rape, family, mental health, crime and art of course. That seems to be a lot to have on just one plate, but Diane Chamberlain somehow makes it work and the result is an abundant and lavish story that also has more than one hidden deeper meaning.

It was fascinating to learn that Big Lies In A Small Town was actually based on real events and that the small town Edenton, North Carolina, does actually exist… And so did Anna Dale. It shows that a lot of research went into making this story feel authentic, and the details and descriptions really took the story to the next level. Racism and related problems in the 1940 South play a very important role in this story, and I thought it was described realistically. Likewise, we have Morgan in the present with a different set of problems, which are likewise realistically described. This story proves just how important is to get the research right before starting a story based on true events!

As for the characters… While Morgan and Anna weren’t my favorite characters of their corresponding POVs, I can’t deny that their development in general is very well done and they both intrigued me. Favorites would probably be Oliver and Jesse, but each character put his or her own stamp on the story and they all played a role in representing the many different elements of Big Lies In A Small Town. The pace of this story might be a tad slow, as there are a lot of descriptions and their is a lot of focus on the characters as a whole. But there is also plenty of suspense, and the mystery around Anna and the strange elements on the mural will keep you on your toes as you try to discover the truth.

Big Lies In A Small Town is a historical fiction read that isn’t afraid to go big and throw a complex and wide-ranging plot with a deeper meaning at you; well researched and well developed, the result is an abundant story following two flawed but absolutely fascinating characters. Fans of the genre who don’t mind a slower pace will most likely devour this one!


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: A Dark Matter – by Doug Johnstone #RandomThingsTours #blogtour @Orendabooks @annecater

Hello and welcome to my stop of the A Dark Matter Random Things Tours blog tour! A huge thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. Last year my first experience with Doug Johnstone‘s books, Breakers, completely blew me away and made me an instant fan of his work. I’ve been looking forward to read his newest ever since I first heard about it and it was without doubt another fantastic experience. Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts!

Title: A Dark Matter
Author: Doug Johnstone
Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller
First published: November 23rd 2019
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: December 29th 2019
Pages: 300

“Everyone is the main character in their own story, has their own life to lead, full of sorrow and joy, boredom and excitement, life and death.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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It’s been over a week and I’m still struggling to get a somewhat coherent sentence, let alone a coherent review on paper. It’s not the first time I say this, and I’ll say it again, but such is the power of Orenda Books titles! They should add a new word to the dictionary, something along the lines of ‘Orenda hangover‘, as this definitely seems to become the norm every time I finish another Orenda title… I’m not complaining of course, as it is only a sign of just how fantastic each story is, but it does make it hard for us poor book bloggers to actually get those reviews somewhat up to standard (or am I the only one?). Nothing wrong with just trying though and let’s see how far I can get putting down my thoughts on A Dark Matter

I had the chance to read my first Doug Johnstone book, Breakers, last year and it blew me away, so it’s easy to say that my expectations for his newest title A Dark Matter were high. Now that I’ve had the chance to read it, I can confirm that those expectations were more than met! A Dark Matter can be seen as a mix of a family drama and crime thriller read set in Edinburgh. The description and development of the setting is simply sublime, and made me feel as if I were right there in Scotland along with the characters. Another thing stands out is the focus on the funeral home both as a setting and part of the plot. It definitely set the right atmosphere for the story as well! Both death itself, the private investigator subplot and the things that happen in the funeral home in general play a key role in the plot, which turns the funeral home into an integral part of the story. And of course the funeral side of things was both well described and absolutely fascinating to read more about.

The story evolves around three generations of women: Dorothy, her daughter Jenny and her granddaughter Hannah. A Dark Matter is told with the help of three different POVs, alternating between them as we slowly learn more about the different storylines in play. This gives the plot a multidimentional and complex feel and really took the story to the next level for me. It’s hard to get the introduction of multiple POVs right in a story, but in this case I think Doug Johnstone hit the nail on the head. Each POV complemented the other two, both adding to their own storyline as well as adding to the overall story, and together they helped build an extraordinary read.

A Dark Matter not only has three different POVs but, like I hinted at before, also has a lot of different elements and separate storylines in play. Among other things, we have the funeral home and everything it entails, the death of Dorothy’s husband Jim and his secrets, the PI angle and active investigations, the disappearance of Hannah’s friend, family secrets in general, grief… This sounds like a lot to juggle in just one story, but every element is incorporated so splendidly into the plot that it simply works like a charm. The writing as well as the suspense and plot twists are also sublime, and really added to the overall quality of A Dark Matter. There are a lot of secrets, twists and turns involved relating to the various storylines in play, and they will definitely keep you on your toes. You will find there are so many secrets for you to uncover! And that ending will most definitely be a shocker.

Oh yes, this story both started and ended with a bang, and I loved every single minute and page along the way. Both Breakers and now A Dark Matter have shown the excellence and versitility of Doug Johnstone‘s work and I’m 200% a fan. A Dark Matter is actually the first book of a series around the Skelfs family and I already can’t wait to find out what will happen next. Any fan of a well written and multidimentional crime thriller should add this one to their wishlist!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Doug Johnstone is the author of ten novels, most recently Breakers (2018),
which has been shortlisted for the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime
Novel of the Year. Several of his books have been bestsellers and award
winners, and his work has been praised by the likes of Val McDermid,
Irvine Welsh and Ian Rankin. He’s taught creative writing and been writer
in residence at various institutions – including a funeral home – and
has been an arts journalist for twenty years. Doug is a songwriter and
musician with five albums and three EPs released, and he plays drums for
the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, a band of crime writers. He’s also playermanager
of the Scotland Writers Football Club. He lives in Edinburgh.


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: Are You Watching? – by Ralph Vincent #RandomThingsTours #blogtour #AreYouWatchingMagpieMan @PenguinUKBooks @VincentRalph1 @annecater

Hello and welcome to my stop of the Are You Watching? Random Things Tours blog tour! A huge thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I admit I was intrigued as soon as I saw that cover and read the blurb. I don’t read nearly enough YA thrillers and I loved the sound of the social media angle, so deciding whether to read Are You Watching? was truly a no-brainer. And my instincts were definitely right about this story! Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts…

Title: Are You Watching?
Author: Vincent Ralph
Genre: YA, Mystery, Thriller
First published: January 6th 2020
Publisher: Penguin
Finished reading: December 22nd 2019
Pages: 371

“It was Dad who gave the murderer his name. He said he Magpie Man liked shiny things and Mum was the shiniest of all.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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We are living in a time where social media seems to be taking over our lives and it has been playing an increasingly important role in the everyday life of most people in recent years. Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Youtube… While it’s true that they are clever tools to connect and share your views with the rest of the world, most don’t seem to be realizing what the underlying dangers are of plastering your whole life all over the internet. What if someone up to no good tries to access and use all that information against you? Without doubt a terrifying thought…

Are You Watching? addresses a slightly different angle: instead of the villain, it is the main character Jessica who uses social media to try and catch the serial killer who took the life of her mom and a dozen others. Talk about an original premise! This premise alone was enough for me to add this debut to my must-read list and now I’ve had the chance to read it, I can confirm that this story is without doubt a lightingfast and thrilling pageturner. What a ride! You will definitely want to clear your schedule for this one, because once you start the first chapter you will find it impossible to stop reading. I was actually reading a different story when I started Are You Watching? (some situations ask for my kindle instead of a physical copy) and I literally had to put my other current read on hold even though I was enjoying it as well. Such is the power of Jessica’s story!

The success of Are You Watching? is in the combination of a serial killer thriller and the social media angle, which gives the story its unique touch and shows us the power of social media and how it could be used to catch a killer who up to that moment didn’t leave any clues behind at the different murder scenes. This social media element is without doubt the true star of this story and plays a key role in the plot as well. The idea of the live Youtube shows and Jessica using her day to make people remember her mother’s death again and hopefully catch the Magpie Man killer is both original and highly entertaining… The twists involving the developing Youtube show and the response of the viewers on social media without doubt added a healthy dose of suspense to the plot.

Other elements play a role as well, including grief, family and friendship. Jessica’s relationship with her family and friends give the story a personal touch while also giving this story its distinctive YA feel. And guess what? There is almost no romance involved in Are You Watching?, which was definitely a huge bonus for me personally. Instead, the main focus is on friendship and the live Youtube show Jessica participates in. It was fascinating to see how Jessica uses the show to try and put the spotlight on the murder cases again and tries to find new witnesses and evidence to finally catch the killer.

The plot itself is well developed, exciting and definitely has quite a few twists and turns in store to keep you guessing; they were definitely successful in misleading me at least. Action and suspense are mixed with lighter moments to release some of the tension, but Are You Watching? will definitely keep you on your toes… You will find yourself turning those pages like there is no tomorrow just to find out if Jessica is able to achieve her goal. Things are definitely heating up in the second half, but the story in general is without doubt a real rollercoaster ride. The characters are solid and it was interesting to see them develop over time. Even the Magpie Man, while not that present or developed beyond the typical serial killer boogeyman image during most of the story, was an intriguing character to follow due to the mystery around his identity and motive behind his murders. The whole angle with the family of the murder victims (including Jessica and her father) was probably the most interesting though.

Basically, there is a lot to love in Are You Watching? and it is without doubt a true pageturner. If you enjoy a well written and fast-paced YA thriller with an omnipresent social media angle and an unique touch, Are You Watching? should definitely be on your wishlist.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Vincent Ralph has been writing in one form or another since his teens and
always dreamed of being a novelist. He owes his love of books to his mother,
who encouraged his imagination from an early age and made sure there were
new stories to read.

Vincent has lived in London, Cornwall and Chester but he now lives in his home
county of Kent with his wife, son and two cats.


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ARC REVIEW: The Missing Letters Of Mrs. Bright – by Beth Miller

Title: The Missing Letters Of Mrs Bright
Author: Beth Miller
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
First published: January 9th 2020
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: December 4th 2019
Pages: 327

“I wanted to try whatever life I had left without that net. Close my eyes and take a leap of faith.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Bookouture in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I know I don’t read contemporary romance all that often, but I like mixing up my genres every once in a while and there was just something about The Missing Letters Of Mrs. Bright that made me want to read it instantly. I think it was a combination of the blurb itself and the comparison to Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine and A Man Called Ove; two of my favorite books with characters I absolutely adored. And the blurb definitely sounded like main character Kay was going to have the same vibe, so I was superexcited to finally meet her. I might have set my expectations a tad too high, because somehow I didn’t end up enjoying this story as much as I thought I would… I’ll try to explain why.

First of all I have to stress that The Missing Letters Of Mrs. Bright is by no means a bad read, and the rating reflects my personal reaction to this story and its characters rather than the quality of the story. There is a lot to love in The Missing Letters Of Mrs. Bright, and depending on how you react to the main characters your reading experience might just be completely different from my own… First of all, we have the bookish elements. Not only does main character Kay’s husband own multiple bookshops, but we see other references as well throughout the story. I always love those little references in my books, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. Another element I loved was travel related; not only that Kay wants to spread her wings and start seeing the world, but also those descriptions and chapters set in Australia and especially those in Venice. This Italian city really came alive for me in the descriptions and was one of the highlights of this book for me.

I also loved the idea behind the letters, and some actually being incorporated into the plot between chapters. This most definitely added an original touch! The plot itself is intriguing enough and uses multipe POVs to help us understand how different people react to Kay’s decision to leave her husband of twentynine years and start doing things she has always wanted to but never has. There is the underlying worry and mystery around Bear of course as well, and it was interesting to see things develop and secrets slowly coming to light. The writing was easy on the eye and superfast to read, and in many ways this is the perfect contemporary romance read.

What went wrong for me then? I still can’t put my finger exactly on the why, but part of the reason is pretty clear: the main characters. Sadly, I wasn’t able to connect to the characters as I thought I would. I had issues with various decisions and personality traits of more than one character, and this really put a damper on things… I won’t go too much into details to avoid spoilers, but I wasn’t a fan of Kay and her selfishness after her decision. I fully get she has the right to a life of her own, but she truly only thinks of herself and doesn’t seem to care too much of what her children and friends are going through… And that was not the only thing that annoyed me about her. I wasn’t able to warm up to Stella, Edward or Richard either, although I did like Newland, Rose and even Piet. What I absolutely detested was the whole cheating angle, but that is just a personal reaction as I never respond well to this element in a story…

I did love the food element in The Missing Letters Of Mrs. Bright though. The descriptions of the food really made me crave those dishes and I actually prepared my curry recipe as a result afterwards. There were a lot of other things I enjoyed as well, like mentioned above, but as a whole something just didn’t click for me and I ended up having mixed thoughts about this story. Fans of the contemporary romance genre might just have a fantastic time with The Missing Letters Of Mrs. Bright though! Definitely give this story a chance if you think it might be your cup of tea, because it seems like I’m in the minority with this one.


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