Book review: Love is in the air as spring arrives

Love is in the air as spring arrives
Love is in the air as spring arrives
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Sail away into a new season of reading as a raft of romantic sagas aims to set hearts aflutter.

From a duchess desperate for true love and a Victorian woman facing a kidnapping of the heart to a compelling tale from much-loved Liverpool author Lyn Andrews and family sagas set during the grim wartime years, there are books to enchant, enthral and entertain.

From Liverpool with Love by Lyn Andrews

Liverpool-born Lyn Andrews is now firmly established as the romance queen of the north and her 36th book packs the same magical brand of superb storytelling, gritty reality and heart-melting romance.

Little Jane Shaw and her brother Alfie know more than children should about the tougher side of life in 1920s Liverpool. After their father’s tragic death, the Brownlow Hill Workhouse in the heart of the city’s slums is the only refuge for their mother Ellen. When Ellen also dies, the youngsters have only each other to depend on.

Jane’s opportunity to make good comes when she gets a job in the Empire Laundry and is given a home by her mother’s old friend Ada Ellis whose son Joe has been the apple of Jane’s eye since childhood. When Joe breaks her heart, Jane throws herself into her work and soon she gets herself noticed by the owner of the laundry, James Davenport. But Alfie is a constant worry to her. Drawn into criminal activity by the promise of easy pickings, he is on a dangerous path.

Can Jane forget Joe and find with James the kind of happiness an orphaned girl dreams of? And what will become of Alfie who seems hell-bent on a criminal career and whose plans are a threat to his sister’s future?

A spellbinding portrayal of the lives and loves of the hardy folk of Liverpool…

(Headline, hardback, £14.99)

Four Nights With The Duke by Eloisa James

Surprisingly for a Shakespeare professor, New Yorker Eloisa James has made a reputation for herself as a writer of escapist Regency romps… with the emphasis very much on love, laughter and lust.

Four Nights With The Duke, another fabulous story in her bestselling Desperate Duchesses series, has all those traditional ingredients of romance and adventure but with a large and irresistible helping of wry humour to add extra potency to the compelling mix.

As a young girl, Emilia (Mia) Gwendolyn Carrington told the annoying future Duke of Pindar that she would marry any man in the world before him, so years later she is horrified to realise that she has nowhere else to turn.

Evander Septimus Brody has his own reasons for agreeing to Mia’s audacious proposal but there is one thing he won’t give his inconvenient wife… himself. Instead, he offers Mia a devil’s bargain; he will spend four nights a year with her. Four nights, and no more, and those only when she begs for them which, of course, Mia will never do.

Now Evander faces the most crucial challenge of his life. He must seduce his own wife in order to win her heart and, no matter what it takes, this is one battle he cannot afford to lose.

Fresh, witty and high-spirited, James’s enjoyable and entertaining Regency romance is a marvellous merry-go-round of scandals, seductions, love and high drama.

(Piatkus, paperback, £8.99)

Otherwise Engaged by Amanda Quick

Suspense, drama, danger and passion… Jayne Ann Krentz, writing here as Amanda Quick, sets pulses racing in this high-octane romance set in the dark streets of Victorian London.

One does not expect to be kidnapped on a city street in broad daylight. Yet Amity Doncaster barely escapes with her life after meeting a man in a black silk mask who whispers the most vile taunts and threats into her ear.

Her quick thinking, and her secret weapon, save her for now but the monster known in the press as the Bridegroom has left a trail of female victims in his wake and will soon be on his feet again.

He is unwholesomely obsessed by Amity’s scandalous connection to Benedict Stanbridge, and Benedict refuses to let this resourceful, daring woman suffer for her romantic link to him, however tenuous it may be.

For a man and woman so skilled at disappearing, so at home in the exotic reaches of the globe, escape is always an option. But each intends to end the Bridegroom’s reign of terror in the heart of the city they love, which means they must also face feelings neither of them can run away from…

Using her trademark mix of passion and mystery, with an enchanting paranormal twist, Quick whisks us away to a wonderful world of escapist romance.

(Piatkus, paperback, £8.99)

Wartime Sweethearts by Lizzie Lane

And from popular author Lizzie Lane comes the first of a brand new Second World War trilogy featuring the feisty, food-loving Sweet family from a small village near Bristol.

The Sweets have run the local bakery for as long as anyone can remember. Twins Ruby and Mary Sweet help out their widowed father when they can. Mary loves baking and has no intention of leaving their small Gloucestershire village while Ruby dreams of life in London. But as war threatens there will be changes for all of the Sweet family as brother Charlie leaves home to serve his country and young cousin Frances faces evacuation. But there will be opportunities too as the twins’ baking talents catch the attention of the Ministry of Food…

Lizzie Lane’s mother, who endured both the Depression and the war years, was a natural born storyteller and it is from her real experiences of the tumultuous first half of the 20th century that Lane gets her inspiration.

Here she weaves an enchanting and gritty story, written with her trademark sensitivity and packed with authenticity and drama.

(Ebury, paperback, £5.99)

Emma’s War by Rosie Clarke

The second book in the Rosie Clarke’s warm and nostalgic ‘Emma’ trilogy takes us into the heart of the Second World War.

It’s February 1940 and Emma Robinson, with a disastrous marriage now behind her, thinks that life couldn’t be better. She is engaged to gentle, caring RAF pilot Jonathan Reece and she is living and working in the heart of the fashion industry in London. But her happiness is short-lived. Within months, Jon’s plane is shot down over France and he is declared missing, presumed dead. Alone and with two children to care for, Emma’s first thought is how to support her family. But when she makes a new friend in the American businessman Jack Harvey, she is faced with a difficult decision. Should she take a last chance at happiness?

Previously published as The Bonds That Break by Linda Sole, Clarke’s emotional and vivid tale of life in wartime is a rollercoaster ride which puts love, loss, family and friendship at its heart.

(Ebury, paperback, £5.99)

A Mother’s Duty by June Francis

And we return to Liverpool in a gorgeous family saga from June Francis, another of Lancashire’s born storytellers.

It’s the 1930s and raising three boys and running the Arcadia Hotel in Liverpool almost single-handed is enough to keep widow Kitty Ryan busy. She has no time for romance – unless it’s in the form of a rare evening out at the local picture house in the company of Fred Astaire.

Then along comes John McLeod, bringing with him a second chance at happiness. However, as Hitler grows too big for his boots and ‘Peace in our time’ becomes an empty refrain, Kitty finds her sons unwilling to accept another man into their household.

Unless she can reunite her menfolk, the future looks set to be that of a family in conflict, in a world on the eve of war...

Previously published as Kitty and Her Boys, this is another compelling and action-packed story full of romance, danger and high drama from an author with her finger firmly on the pulse of life in the north.

(Ebury, paperback, £5.99)