UNCOVERED PICKS: Five March Releases

As we make our way into March, it's time for a peek at what's new in female fiction. This month sees new novels from Christie Barlow (author of Lizzie's Christmas Escape), Sophie Nicholls (The Dress) and Cathy Kelly (Between Sisters).

Finding Secrets by Lauren Westwood
Alex Hart loves her dream job as manager of Mallow Court, a historic Elizabethan house, even if her friends think she needs to get out more. But a discovery in the pocket of an old coat – a jewelled mechanical locket shaped like a bird – changes everything, and Alex discovers that things are not as they seem.

From an old diary, to a handsome barrister, a mysterious clockmaker, and the darkest hours of the London Blitz, Alex must follow the trail of the jewelled bird to uncover the truth about the things she holds dearest – and someone is determined not to let sleeping dogs lie!

Only by finding the secrets of the past can Alex find the keys to her future – and her heart.

The Difference Between You and Me by Celia Hayes
Trudy Watts has everything she's ever dreamed of: a job that she loves, a successful boyfriend and an ultra-modern apartment in one of the most fashionable parts of London. With a long-awaited promotion due to come her way and her wedding just around the corner, Trudy's life is just perfect...

That is until catastrophe strikes and her life is turned upside down. She's transferred to Turriff, a remote Scottish town to manage a small, struggling bank branch.

Her arrival is traumatic and she wishes she was anywhere but here... Until she sees him – Ethan, the charming pub landlord, who seems to enjoy nothing more than to tease her. And it's right there, in that pub, that her life will suddenly change...

Evie's Year of Taking Chances by Christie Barlow
Evie’s job has always been her safe haven. As a librarian in the little town of Becton she loses herself in books - after all it’s far easier to read about other people’s problems than set about solving her own.

Then, one birthday, everything is turned upside down. A mysterious parcel containing a beautiful book with a poignant inscription arrives for Evie. It’s the beginning of a new chapter for Evie and she’s inspired to try and find her real mother. 

Evie’s search leads her to meet handsome author Noah Jones. Charming and intelligent, Noah seems the perfect catch but what Evie doesn’t realise is that he is hiding something – a key to Evie’s past. 

As Evie gets closer to Noah and discovering her mother, she must take a giant leap of faith. Can she embrace the new and make this her year of taking chances? And if she does, will she get her heart broken? 

Miss Mary's Book of Dreams by Sophie Nicholls
In historic York, Ella seems to have the perfect life. She's a published author, her bookshop is thriving, she's married to the man of her dreams and they've started a family of their own. 

But Ella is struggling. Motherhood isn't quite everything she imagined it to be, and she's worried that there may be cracks in her marriage. 

On the other side of the Atlantic, despite endless blue skies and a stream of eager customers in her vintage dress shop, Ella's mother Fabia finds that life in San Diego is not enough for her. She misses York, and can sense that Ella needs her, so she flies home. 

And this is when they meet Bryony. With a complicated life and secrets of her own, Bryony may have some of the answers they're looking for. 

Can Ella and Fabia help her find her way, whilst also working out how to find their own happily ever after?

Secrets of a Happy Marriage by Cathy Kelly
Bess is hoping to show everyone just how happy her recent marriage is, but behind all the party-planning the cracks are beginning to show. Why is joining a family so difficult?

Jojo, Bess's stepdaughter, has a point to make. Bess is not her mother, and she won't replace the one she's been missing every day for the last two years. And will she ever get the chance to become a mum herself?

Cousin Cari is a fierce career-woman who isn't unnerved by anything - apart from facing the man who left her at the alter, and he's on the guestlist. Her job has been a safe place to hide ever since - but is it time to let love into her life again?

Thanks to laughter, tears and one surprise appearance, the Brannigans might just discover the secrets of a happy marriage...but will they find out before it's too late?

BOOK NEWS: Mystery at Maplemead Castle by Kitty French

I absolutely adored Melody Bittersweet and the Girls' Ghostbusting Agency, and now a sequel is about to be released!

Out next month, Mystery at Maplemead Castle is the second book starring Melody and her hilarious colleagues, in The Chapelwick Mysteries series. This time, Melody is investigating the haunting of a trapeze artist, whilst trying to fend off her annoying ex and an intrusive reporter...

Welcome to Chapelwick, a leafy English town in the hills of Shropshire, where chocolate pecan cookies come with a helping of sabotage.

Maplemead Castle is crawling with ghosts, and the new owners need them gone. When Melody Bittersweet and the Girls’ Ghostbusting Agency arrive on scene, they quickly identify the troublemakers swinging from the chandeliers...literally. 

A century ago, stunning trapeze artist Britannia Lovell plunged to her death, and has done every night since. But did she really just fall, or was there something more to her demise?

Forced to work with Leo Dark, her scoundrel ex, and infuriating, irresistible reporter Fletcher Gunn, Melody’s investigative powers are under strain (i.e. lost in a pink mist of lust and confusion). She needs her team on top form, but best friend Marina’s cake pipeline goes AWOL, assistant Artie’s distracted by a giant sausage roll, and the pug is scared witless by a lion.

Somewhere, hidden in the castle, is a heart-breaking secret, but what will it take to find it? And is there a chance it could set Britannia free, or is she doomed to repeat her last fateful act forever?

COVER REVEAL: A Life Without You by Shari Low

Shari Low, author of The Other Wives Club, A Brand New Me and The Motherhood Walk of Fame, is back with a new offering! A Life Without You will be published by Aria on April 1st, and today we've had the pleasure of showing its stunning cover.

Dee and Jen have been best friends since their days of teenage crushes, bad 90's make-up and huge hair. 

They’ve passed every milestone of their lives together and now in their thirties own a successful boutique, sharing a bond that is as strong as the closest of sisters.

Until one day everything changes. 

Dee is gone, killed by a reckless driver, leaving Jen to face the harsh reality of a world without her. 
Jen vows to honour Dee’s dreams and take care of everything and everyone she loved. 

Until she realises that sometimes the only way forward is to let go of the past.

About the author
Shari lives in Glasgow and writes a weekly opinion column and Book Club page for a well known newspaper. She is married to a very laid-back guy and has two athletic teenage sons, who think she’s fairly embarrassing, except when they need a lift.

Website: www.sharilow.com

Twitter: @ShariLow

Follow Aria
For more information about A Life Without You or other Aria novels, check out their website and social media:
Twitter: @aria_fiction
Facebook: @ariafiction

Instagram: @ariafiction

BOOK REVIEW: Some Kind of Magic by Mary Ann Marlowe

What do you do when the gorgeous rock star you're dating might only be with you because of a perfume that's effectively a love potion? Biochemist Eden Sinclair is faced with a difficult predicament in Mary Ann Marlowe's debut novel, Some Kind of Magic.

Single Eden's life is generally going well. She's a scientist. She' has a successful and lovely musician for a brother. An apartment and prospects. The downsides? She's not exactly doing the work she dreamed of, and her mother's constantly on a mission to set her up with unsuitable men. Eden isn't too lucky in love, but that soon changes when her lab colleague hands her a vial of perfume.

Eden doesn't know it, but the perfume is designed to enhance pheromones. And after attending one of Micah's gigs, starts to hit it off with a cute musician.

Little does Eden know, he's none other than Adam Copeland, internationally famous guitarist with millions of worldwide fans. When Eden finally realises that the cute guy she slept with is a rock star, tension rises. Especially when she also finds out that the perfume she's wearing is designed to have a bit of an effect on men...

Is Adam attracted to her because of the perfume, or is it due to a different kind of chemistry?

Admittedly I didn't enjoy this book as much as I'd hoped. I'd fallen for the blurb (and its gorgeous cover!), intrigued by the perfume premise which sadly seemed to be overshadowed by the 'good girl falls for the rock star' element of the book. I expected a bit more of a twist as I tend to look for more in novels than just a love story, and this one was, sadly, quite predictable. I also found it very hard to like Eden, who came across as snobby and a bit childish at times, especially with her reluctance to date men based on their occupations (doesn't want to date a dentist or gynecologist because, you know, ew. Even though she's a fully grown woman. And a scientist.) I wasn't sure if I was meant to find this fussiness endearing, but it was just grating.

Even though I love Mary Ann Marlowe's writing style, I just didn't really fall for this book. However, that's probably just due to personal preference. If you're a fan of romance novels, this might be a good read for you; it's light, with some funny moments and some great characters, such as Micah and Adam. I was just expecting a little bit more.

Rating: 2/5

Thank you to Netgalley for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

BOOK REVIEW: Whatever Happened to Vicky Hope's Backup Man? by Laura Kemp

Sometimes, life just doesn't go to plan. For Vicky Hope, life is crashing down very quickly indeed, when she finds herself dumped, jobless and back at her parents' place on her thirtieth birthday.

It wasn't what she expected; at twenty-one, Vicky was preparing for her future, about to jet off around the world to embark on a life-changing experience and a bit of fun with her sensible and privileged friend Kat before real life and study took hold. Worrying about her young single status and what the future holds, Vicky and Mikey Murphy made a pact on the night of her farewell barbecue - that if they were still single at thirty, the pair would marry.

Now, eight years later, Vicky's alone. Something she hadn't envisioned all that time ago. And with her life currently in disarray, she decides to track down her former best pals Kat and Mikey, who she hasn't spoken to for years. Only to discover that life has gone on for the others too. Once-quiet Mikey is now a highly successful app designer. Kat, who was always destined for greatness, didn't exactly achieve the glowing future in finance that she had hoped for, and harbours a big secret. Even though they've been separated, Vicky and her friends still share a bond, and it's up to her to not only get her life back on track, but also get back her friends. Including Mikey - but the Mikey that she once knew.

Whatever Happened to Vicky Hope's Back Up Man was a good read. Sweet, nostalgic and warming. Admittedly it did take me a little while to get into it at first - when I began to read about Kat's story, I felt that the book started to pick up. However, it's obvious from the very beginning that Vicky and Mikey share a close bond that's more than friendship, however much they deny it. The chapters are set both in present-day, and also in the past, as we learn more about Vicky, Kat and Mikey's lives throughout their twenties and what happened after the girls went travelling. I did enjoy the sense of nostalgia.

The book includes more than just romance - there is drama, betrayal and tested friendships. I'm not going to reveal any spoilers here, but there are twists in this book that I did not see coming, even though the main plot is quite a predictable one. One thing I particularly liked about the novel was the development of Vicky's character from the beginning to the end, and the prospect of reality. Let's face it, many of us had big dreams when we were twenty-one. Then the real world gets in the way. Laura Kemp has done an amazing job of portraying that young-adult naivete and combining it with the realities of thirty-something life.

Rating: 4/5

Thank you to Netgalley for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

BOOK NEWS: Don't Stop Me Now by Colleen Coleman

Colleen Coleman is definitely one to watch, having signed with Bookouture last summer! Her novel Don't Stop Me Now will be released in March, and follows ambitious Poppy, who's forced to temporarily take a step back in life when things don't go to plan...

A hilarious feel good read about finding your feet when life pulls the rug out from under you.

Poppy Bloom planned to finish her PhD and walk straight into a job at her university. But here she is, unemployed, unceremoniously dumped by her boyfriend, and living back at her mum’s in her vampire-themed childhood bedroom.

Not exactly what she was hoping for.

But when Poppy sets her mind to something, nothing can stand in her way. She scores herself an internship at the hottest radio station in town, joins a netball team, and renews her friendship with her oldest friend Leanne. Spending time with Leanne’s gorgeous twin Tom is just a bonus…

But life has a way of tripping you up when you least expect it, and Poppy soon has to decide where her priorities lie… With new friends, a new career and a new romance, can Poppy keep everyone happy, or is everything about to tumble down around her? 

BOOK REVIEW: Sister, Sister by Sue Fortin

I've been getting through quite a lot of great thrillers recently, but after reading Sister, Sister by Sue Fortin (author of The Girl Who Lied), I have to say that this is one of the best so far.

Clare didn't think that she would ever see her sister Alice ever again. Separated as young children, time had moved on with no word from the little sister who was taken to America by her father and never returned. Despite many attempts to track her down, including a private investigator, Clare and her mother had never been able to locate Alice.

Clare, now a successful lawyer, wife to artist Luke and mother to two young girls of her own, gets a shock when a letter from Alice arrives out of the blue. Clare's long-lost sibling wants to meet, leaving Clare and her mother ecstatic at the prospect of them all being reunited again.

Alice's arrival from the States begins as nicely as anticipated, with the three women getting to know each other, their mother desperate to connect with the little girl who was taken away from her all those years ago. Alice is sweet, bubbly, and even though a little fussy, is seemingly easy to get along with. In fact, Alice is finding it quite easy to get along with Clare's husband Luke.

With Alice staying in the house that Clare and her family share with her mother, the new arrival is settling in rather nicely. However, something just doesn't seem right to Clare.She could be imagining it, but little things about her sister are beginning to irritate her; Alice's almost fake pleasantries, her closeness with Luke, the fact that Alice is borrowing her clothes, the comments that don't seem right somehow.

As Clare's suspicions grow, so do her fears, and with events that she doesn't know are experienced or imagined, finds herself in a crisis. There's something amiss about her sister, and she's determined to find out what it is, no matter what gets in the way...

I'm going to stop there, because I feel I may have said too much already. This is a novel that has to be read if you're a fan of thrillers. I read Sister, Sister quickly, during every spare minute, because it was impossible to put down my Kindle. When Clare's world is turned upside down again due to her sister, can she cope? The tension in this novel is fantastic. Sue Fortin has provided a winning formula; mystery, family drama, startling revelations, challenged relationships, an unpredictable conclusion and plenty of action. It's a book that constantly keeps you guessing. It's utterly brilliant.

Rating: 5/5

Thank you to Netgalley for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

BOOK REVIEW: The Girls Next Door by Mel Sherratt

The Girls Next Door is the first in a new crime series by Mel Sherratt, author of Taunting The Dead, Somewhere to Hide and Follow the Leader. When it comes to crime novels I'm quite a new reader, but I was intrigued by the premise of The Girls Next Door when I saw it on Netgalley. The new series focuses on Detective Sergeant Eden Berrisford, working in the town of Stockleigh where, in this novel, she's investigating a series of attacks on young women.

When a teenage girl, Deanna Barker, is mistakenly murdered one night, local youngster Katie is arrested for the crime - even though she didn't commit it. With the upcoming murder trial, the residents of Stockleigh are waiting to hear the results. Including the Barkers, notorious on the Mitchell Estate for their intimidating ways. Deanna was killed that night, and it seems like the family are out for revenge. When three teenagers are brutally attacked, DS Eden Berrisford is called in to investigate.

However, the situation becomes worse when Jess, Eden's own niece, goes missing, leading Eden to search for the truth and locate her before it's too late. With the impending trial it's only a matter of time before whoever is holding her teenage niece attempts to get justice of their own.

The novel takes place over a weekend, and focuses on not just Eden, but the other families and teenagers too, such as Katie and her parents, and Eden's sister, Laura. And it soon becomes clear that it's not just the murder trial that's causing a problem for the Stockleigh teens.

Eden is a great character. She's brave, kind, family-focused and relatable.  She's hard working, determined to serve her community, and I was intrigued by how she tackled the situation when her work life and personal life collided in a huge way. I'm looking forward to more novels in the series, to see how this character develops more.

As for the other characters? I'm not so sure. Jess is extremely unlikeable, and I found it quite hard to warm to Laura, Jess's mother. I think this was due to the fact that there were quite a lot of characters in this novel, so they were not given that much depth. However, I enjoyed reading about the teenagers and their secrets, their actions around the trial, in a town that had already seen so much damage with Deanna's murder.

The only big problem I had with The Girls Next Door was Jess's lack of punishment for what she had done. (Of course, I'm not going to reveal it here, but her actions were not exactly angelic). It disappointed me. It's hard to discuss this without launching into a complete spoiler but if you have read the book, you probably know what I'm referring to.

The Girls Next Door is an intriguing read. It is not, however, a 'gripping, edge-of-your-seat' thriller as its cover promises. I did not find this book 'gripping', nor would I have classed it as a thriller. This isn't so much an issue with the book or the author, more with marketing, and it's not the first time I've seen such descriptions on books that turn out to be untrue.  This novel is paced well, has a great lead character, focuses on more realistic crimes and its 'twist' is not huge, or that shocking. And you know what?  I absolutely loved that about it. It didn't HAVE to be shocking. It was refreshing; there was no huge OTT plot twist just for the sake of it. To me, The Girls Next Door seemed to be more of a gritty crime drama than thriller, and I'd love to read more of these.

I definitely want to read more about DS Eden Berrisford. And I'm in luck, because Mel Sherratt's next novel in the series, Don't Look Behind You, is already available!

Rating: 4/5

Thank you to Netgalley for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

NEW RELEASES: After Hello by Mhairi McFarlane

Here's some news for those who enjoyed Mhairi McFarlane's bestselling novel You Had Me At Hello! After Hello is a short story sequel about Rachel and Ben and is available now.

In You Had Me At Hello, the one who got away came back… but what happened next?

Together, apart and then back together again, Rachel and Ben had a rollercoaster ride to get here. But now happily in love and partners in crime once more, it feels like it’s all been worth it.

But when a face from the past reappears, misunderstandings come between them once more.
Can they hold on to their happy ever after?