Book Review: Carnegie’s Maid by Marie Benedict


My latest book review is of Carnegie’s Maid by Marie Benedict.

From the author of The Other Einstein comes the mesmerizing story of love, power, and the woman who inspired an American dynasty. 

In the industrial 1860s at the dawn of the Carnegie empire, Irish immigrant Clara Kelly finds herself in desperate circumstances.  Looking for a way out, she seeks employment as a lady’s maid in the home of the prominent businessman Andrew Carnegie.  Soon, the bond between Clara and her employer deepens into love. But when Clara goes missing, Carnegie’s search for her unearths secrets and revelations that lay the foundation for his lasting legacy.

With capturing insight and sunning heart, Carnegie’s Maid tells the story of one lost woman who may have spurred Andrew Carnegie’s transformation from ruthless industrialist into the world’s first true philanthropist. (Thanks Netgalley)

Firstly I must confess to not having read The Other Einstein – however when I saw the synopsis for this novel I knew that I had to read it.  It’s been a little while since I’ve indulged in my love of historical fiction, and I was excited to get stuck into Carnegie’s Maid.  My usual historical fiction preferences often centre around the 1930’s and 1940’s, so I was looking forward to branching out – I was not disappointed.

I know very little about American history, or important figures in American history – my passion is for British history and the monarchy.  It was therefore nice to read about a time in American history that I know very little about.  For this reason I am unable to comment on any of the factual historical events that are referred to within the novel.  I know that Andrew Carnegie existed, so I like the idea that Marie Benedict used a real person in American history, and made his story her own by creating a reason for him becoming the philanthropist he is eventually known to be.

Clara Kelly may be a fictional character, but her plight to save her family in the wake of the Irish Potato Famine is very real.  With the death of more than one million people, the famine was devastating to so many Irish families, and Clara’s emigration to America was a very viable option.  Weaving a fictional story amongst so much fact cannot be easy, however I really felt that Marie Benedict achieved this seamlessly: Fact and fiction become one, with the lines between the two barely visible.  Clara’s predicament really resonates with the reader as she is left with secrets to hide, a love that she truly wants to blossom and a family that she desperately wants to save.

The journey that both Clara and Andrew embark on is a beautiful one, and the setting they do it within only highlights the difficulties of these journeys all the more.  I wanted them both to succeed, and I wanted them to do it together.  This is such a lovely novel, and it has encouraged me to find out more about this industrial period in America’s history, as well as to learn more about the issues faced by the Irish in such a bleak period of their history.  I highly recommend this novel, and I will be reading The Other Einstein in the not too distant future.

Rating: 📖 📖 📖 📖 📗

Thank you to Netgalley, Marie Benedict and SOURCEBOOKS Landmark for a copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review.


Book Review: Moonstone Beach by Linda Seed

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Sorry to all my lovely followers – it has been a slow blogging start to 2018!  However, I am back and my fourth review of the year is of Linda Seed’s Moonstone Beach.

She’s a divorcee who’s still struggling to recover. He’s notorious for his reckless ways with women. What could possibly go wrong?

Kate Bennet owns a small bookstore in the breathtaking Central Coast town of Cambria, California. Two years out from a divorce that left her emotionally fragile, she’s starting to think that maybe she’s ready for love again—or at least for a fling with a hot man. Jackson Graham is a local chef who’s controlling when it comes to food, careless when it comes to love, and temperamental when it comes to just about everything.

When Kate’s friends set things up between Kate and Jackson, she expects some casual pleasure followed by a hasty goodbye, but Jackson’s long-term crush on Kate means that he’s in this one to win. The problem is, neither he nor Kate knows whether he can change the self-defeating habits that usually send women scurrying for the door. (Thanks Amazon!)

So here we have a small town American novel WITH a bookstore thrown in – an ideal book for Chapter and Cake!  Moonstone Beach is the first in the Main Street Merchants series by Linda Seed, and the blurb really sold me the story.

Kate has been put off dating following her divorce from a man who sought to destroy her self esteem.  In order to rebuild her life she moves to Cambria in California, living in the home left to her by her mother and running her mothers bookstore.

Jackson is a talented but temperamental chef who works in a nearby restaurant.  He has had a crush on Kate ever since she moved to the small town but when it comes to women he doesn’t usually manage anything other than short term.

This is a typical small town American romance novel: just the kind that I love.  There are no surprises in the story, it is more about the journey and the obstacles two people have to overcome before they can be together.  I enjoyed learning more about both Kate and Jackson, they were relatable characters who have both had to deal with relatable issues.

All in all this was a successful read – the next time I need a small town American romance fix I will make sure that the Main Street Merchants series is at the top of my list of novels to consider!

Rating: 📖 📖 📖 📗


Book Review: Turned Up by Erin Nicholas

Turned Up

So book number 3 in 2018 is Turned Up by Erin Nicholas.

Dillon Alexander has been Kit Derby’s nemesis since third grade, when he beat her in the school spelling bee. They’ve been competing ever since, driving each other to be the best at everything from science fairs to bake sales. While working together one night during their senior year, they stopped bickering long enough to share an emotionally charged kiss. But a tragedy that same night left them both racked with guilt, driving Dillon out of town and leaving Kit determined to keep her distance.

Now an emergency room physician, Dillon has returned to their hometown of Chance, Nebraska. Soon he and Kit fall back into old habits, sparring in public while trying to stay out of each other’s arms. But when a blizzard traps them overnight at Kit’s grandmother’s farmhouse, the real competition begins: Who will be the first to give in to the feelings they’ve denied for a decade? (Thanks Amazon)

Turned Up is the third book in the Taking Chances trilogy by Erin Nicholas.  I’ve been meaning to read this for a while as I really enjoyed the first two so was very pleased when I finally got to it in my TBR pile!

Dillon and Kit both appeared in the previous two novels, so it was like coming back to old friends.  It was nice to finally learn a little more about the pair of them, and the reasons why they have been forced apart for so long.  What I really enjoy about trilogies such as this one is the fact that you get to revisit settings and characters – I loved catching up with Avery and Bree too.  I also liked coming back to Chance, a small, all-American town where the inhabitants all look out for each other.  As you all know, small town American romances are a favourite of mine and this one certainly fit the bill.

Dillon and Kit have undeniable chemistry, and its obvious from the outset that they each struggle to contain their feelings when they are around each other.  It was therefore nice to follow their story as they each learned that letting go of their past might not be such a bad thing after all.

If you want to read a light, easy romance then this is the book for you.  Whilst you don’t need to have read the first two in order to enjoy this, I definitely recommend that you do.  Happy Reading!

Rating: 📖 📖 📖 📖


Book Review: It Started With A Tweet by Anna Bell

It Started With A Tweet

So my latest book review, and second of 2018 is It Started With A Tweet by Anna Bell.

Daisy Hobson lives her whole life online. But when her social media obsession causes her to make a catastrophic mistake at work, Daisy finds her life going into free-fall . . .
Her sister Rosie thinks she has the answer to all of Daisy’s problems – a digital detox in a remote cottage in Cumbria. Soon, too, Daisy meets a welcome distraction there in Jack, the rugged man-next-door.
But can Daisy, a London girl, ever really settle into life in a tiny, isolated village?
And, more importantly, can she survive without her phone? (Thanks Netgalley)

So at a time when social media is everything – I get my childrens school updates, keep in touch with friends, and find new recipes all via social media – this novel is really rather fitting.  Can you cope without your smartphone?

Daisy Hobson cannot cope without her smartphone.  She lives her life via social media, so when she makes one mistake, one catastrophic mistake, she is forced off-line to fulfil an enforced digital detox with her sister.  Having lost her job and potentially her career, Daisy finds herself hidden away in a remote spot in Cumbria living a life she has never dreamed about and has certainly never wanted.  Her smartphone forcibly removed, she finds herself with no internet access and no idea what is going on beyond the outskirts of the small Cumbrian village.  Instead, Daisy has to look up and pay attention to what is going on around her.  She begins to make friends in the local village, including a certain neighbour, but she also starts to see whats happening within her own family.

This novel really does provide a few home truths when it comes to our usage of smartphones, tablets and laptops.  I know not only what my family are up to, but also almost every celebrity on the planet, at any time of day or night.  The question is: do we need to know? Also, is this knowledge stopping us having conversations?  Daisy’s journey from social media queen to a remote villager really highlights these issues.  She knows next to nothing of her sisters life prior to her enforced stay with her, yet she knows all about the lives of random strangers she’s never met.

Daisy and Rosie’s story is a journey, a journey that may become ever more common as all of our realities become more virtual.  I really enjoyed following their story, as they learned to be a part of each others lives again.  It raised some concerns for me, but ultimately I enjoyed the family element, the self-discovery that Daisy is forced to follow and the added fun of a little romance! It was an entertaining, often funny read that I really enjoyed! I definitely recommend!

Sometimes you just need to sit up and look at what is actually around you, rather than just exploring the ever increasing virtual world we all find ourselves in.

Rating: 📖 📖 📖 📖

Thanks to Netgalley and Bonnier Zaffre for a copy of this novel in return for my honest review.

*Blog Tour* Book Review: The Start of Something Wonderful by Jane Lambert

The Start of Something Wonderful

So my first blog tour of 2018 (and first book review blog actually!) is dedicated to Jane Lambert’s novel The Start of Something Wonderful!

It’s never too late to follow your dreams…

Forty-year-old air stewardess, Emily Forsyth, thought she had everything a woman could wish for: a glamorous, jet-set lifestyle, a designer wardrobe and a dishy pilot boyfriend. Until he breaks up with her…

Catapulted into a mid-life crisis she wishes she’d had earlier, she decides to turn her life upside-down, quitting her job and instead beginning to chase her long-held dreams of becoming an actress!

Leaving the skies behind her, Emily heads for the bright lights of London’s West End – but is it too late to reach for the stars? (Thanks Netgalley)

Emily is a glamorous 40 year old air stewardess who has everything – a beautiful home, an amazing lifestyle, a wardrobe any woman would be jealous of and a rather lovely pilot boyfriend.  What more could she possibly want?  Unfortunately she is forced to seriously consider this when that lovely pilot boyfriend blindsides her and dumps her.

At 40 years old she expected to be married with children.  Instead, she finds herself single and at a crossroads in her life.  What does she really want?  Whilst dealing with her heartbreak Emily thinks back over the dreams she has had that have passed her by as she has got on with her life.  She realises that what she has in front of her is a world of opportunity, and the possibility of reclaiming those dreams for herself.  So she quits her job, joins an acting class and seeks to become the actress that she never thought she would be.

Firstly I loved that this novel wasn’t about some twenty-something beautiful young woman who has life handed to her on a plate.  Emily is relatable because she is a normal woman who has dreams, just like the rest of us, that often get pushed to one side due to the bills we have to pay as well as the influence of our friends and family.  Finding herself at a crossroads in her life, I found myself rooting for her as she decided to completely change her life in pursuit of a dream she thought was long forgotten.

I liked the fact that acting wasn’t easy for her, and that she didn’t just walk into major acting roles.  She has to work at it (sometimes whilst scrubbing toilets in her spare time!) in order to gain her next role, not even knowing if that acting role would enable her to pay her bills.  The portrayal of this is important in this novel, and makes it all the more relatable because life and dreams are not easy, there are always obstacles thrown in our way.

The interactions between Emily, Luigi and everyone at Il Mulino are really lovely and were a highlight for me.  It really is a family run restaurant, a family that wholeheartedly embraces and supports Emily as she pushes forward to forge a career in an incredibly difficult business.  My only disappointment surrounding Il Mulino was the relationship between Emily and Francesco.  I do love a bit of romance in my novels, and whilst I wanted to see Emily grab some romantic happiness I also did not want to see her acting dreams oppressed by the addition of a relationship.  I am pleased to confirm that this did not happen, however I never really felt invested in the relationship between Emily and Francesco.  Instead, I found myself anticipating things going wrong between them.  Maybe it was the regular distance between them, or maybe it was the fact that I just wanted to see Emily succeed in her acting career without any distractions, but this was one relationship that I just struggled to relate to.

Do not let my analysis of this one relationship put you off though.  Beyond this, I really enjoyed following Emily’s story as she dealt with the ups and downs of such a significant life change.  It really does leave you feeing that anything is possible if you really are willing to work for it.  If you are looking for an inspiring novel about female determination, this is a novel for you!

Rating: 📖 📖 📖 📖

Thank you to Netgalley, Jane Lambert and HQ Digital for a copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review.

Check out Jane’s lovely book trailer here and if you look carefully you may spot a cheeky mention of Chapter and Cake in the end credits!

Happy New Year! Bring on 2018!

So, just like that it is 2018! Where did the last 12 months go?!

Thank you for all the support in 2017, I’ve gained some new followers and I expanded my reach out beyond WordPress and Twitter to also now include Facebook! It’s been a busy year – I managed to smash my Goodreads Reading Challenge by reading 60 books (my husband would say that means I’ve been sat reading too much but hey, what does he know?!).  Here’s hoping that I can do the same this year.

So coming up at Chapter and Cake is 2018 is;

  • Details of my new ratings system for my book reviews
  • My new #ShareAChapter plans – watch this space for that one!
  • My favourite reads of 2017 – a recap
  • (hopefully) 60 more book reviews for you all!

I look forward to sharing all this and more with you all as we look forward to a new year.  In the meantime, if you have any book recommendations, please do share with me!

Book Review: Sleigh Rides and Silver Bells at the Christmas Fair by Heidi Swain

Sleigh Rides & Silver Bells

Book number 60 in my Goodreads Reading Challenge is Sleigh Rides and Silver Bells at the Christmas Fair by Heidi Swain.

When Anna takes on the role of companion to the owner of Wynthorpe Hall, on the outskirts of Wynbridge, she has no idea that her life is set to change beyond all recognition.

A confirmed ‘bah humbug’ when it comes to Christmas, Anna is amazed to find herself quickly immersed in the eccentric household, and when youngest son Jamie unexpectedly arrives home it soon becomes obvious that her personal feelings are going all out to compromise her professional persona.

Jamie, struggling to come to terms with life back in the Fens, makes a pact with Anna – she has to teach him to fall back in love with Wynthorpe Hall, while he helps her fall back in love with Christmas. But will it all prove too much for Anna, or can the family of Wynthorpe Hall warm her heart once and for all…? (Thanks Amazon)

So the cover of this novel has been enticing me for the last few weeks every time that I go to the supermarket.  I finally decided that I needed a bit of Christmas cheer in my life, it’s that time of year and I am a sucker for a good Christmas story.  Book reviews for this have been filling my Twitter feed so this really was the only choice!  Plus I have read The Cherry Tree Cafe, so I had already been introduced to Wynbridge and was more than happy to revisit such a lovely setting.

Anna, our main character, was really interesting to follow.  Anna had a tough time growing up, and all her bad memories revolved around Christmas.  As a result she has spent her grown up life avoiding anything to do with Christmas.  When the option to take on a companion role in a remote part of England where it is planned that Christmas will barely be celebrated, she jumps at the opportunity.  Six weeks to hide away, throw herself into her work and pretend that Christmas does not exist.

Jamie, the son of Angus and Catherine Connelly, finds himself back at Wynthorpe Hall with a potential burden to bear.  Upon meeting and discovering each others secrets, Anna and Jamie agree to help each other.  Anna will help Jamie to fall back in love with his home, whilst Jamie will help Anna discover a love for Christmas.

We follow Anna and Jamie as they seek to deal with their own issues whilst trying to help each other.  What follows are two journeys of self-discovery where both Anna and Jamie find what is missing in their lives, all set in the run up to Christmas.

Obviously this has an undercurrent of romance (we all need a little Christmas romance in our lives), and the setting of Wynbridge is just magical.  It is a small town, with a close community who all look out for each other.  I love Christmas novels, and this one is a great one. It has everything you want from a Christmas novel: snow, lights, romance, community and family.  I definitely recommend this novel if you want to top up on Christmas cheer before the big day!

Rating: 📖 📖 📖 📖