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The Last Wife by Karen Hamilton | Blog Tour | Book Review 

Thank you to the publisher, Harlequin Trade Publishing/ Graydon House Books, for inviting me to be a part of this exciting Blog Tour for Karen Hamilton’s latest novel The Last Wife and for the eARC of this title via NetGalley.

The Last Wife by Karen Hamilton

Publication Date: July 7, 2020

Publisher: Graydon House Books

ISBN: 9781525831744

My rating: 5/5

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Book Summary

In Karen Hamilton’s shocking thriller, THE LAST WIFE (Graydon House, July 7, $17.99) Marie Langham is distraught when her childhood friend, Nina, is diagnosed with a terminal illness. Before Nina passes away, she asks Marie to look out for her familyher son, daughter, and husband, Stuart. Marie would do anything for Nina, so of course, she agrees.

Following Nina’s death, Marie gradually finds herself drawn into her friend’s lifeher family, her large house in the countryside. But when Camilla, a mutual friend from their old art-college days, suddenly reappears, Marie begins to suspect that she has a hidden agenda. Then, Marie discovers that Nina had long suppressed secrets about a holiday in Ibiza the women took ten years previously when Marie’s then-boyfriend went missing after a tragic accident and was later found dead.

Marie used to envy Nina’s beautiful life, but now the cards are up in the air and she begins to realize that nothing is what it seemed. As long-buried secrets start surfacing, Marie must figure out what’s true and who she can trust before the consequences of Nina’s dark secrets destroy her.

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I Thought…

Best friends Nina and Marie are inseparable until Nina dies from a terminal illness. In her final days she asks Marie to make sure her children, Emily and Felix, are looked after and Marie is only too happy to oblige. But how well did Nina really know Marie and what lengths is Marie prepared to go to in order to achieve her goals?

This was a really twisted psychological thriller, which I thoroughly enjoyed reading. Marie was perfectly portrayed by Karen Hamilton as the ultimate unreliable and creepy character, and I questioned her integrity from the opening chapters. As she barrelled her way into Nina’s life I was given a powerful sense of exactly how manipulating Marie was prepared to be.

Narrator Marie, along with pretty much the whole of the adult cast, was not particularly affable and, in my opinion, was practically insane as well as being quite the scheming manipulator. As the story progressed I found myself pondering about the agendas and mind games of some of the others, particularly Nina’s husband, Stuart, not to mention Camilla, the friend of Marie and Nina from their University days who suddenly arrives from Canada. As secrets constantly kept bubbling up to the surface and occurrences clearly weren’t as they had first appeared, I began to feel that Marie at least deserved some benefit of doubt, even if I was on tenterhooks wondering what she was going to do next, most of the time.

With buckets of tension, a myriad of twists and different avenues keeps the reader on their toes, building up to an interesting and enthralling conclusion.  

The Last Wife is a dark, dubious and chilling family drama with some great characters, and plenty of oomph!

 
A special thank you to Graydon House Books, the author, NetGalley and Pigeonhole for a complimentary copy of this novel at my request. This review is my unbiased opinion.

About the Author:

Karen Hamilton spent her childhood in Angola, Zimbabwe, Belgium and Italy and worked as a flight attendant for many years. Karen is a recent graduate of the Faber Academy and, having now put down roots in Hampshire to raise her young family with her husband, she satisfies her wanderlust by exploring the world through her writing. She is also the author of the international bestseller The Perfect Girlfriend.

Social Links: Author WebsiteTwitter * Instagram * Facebook * Goodreads

Purchase atHarlequin / Barnes & Noble / Books-A-Million / Amazon / Powell’s 

Until Next Time, 

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Stranger in the Lake by Kimberly Belle | Blog Tour | Book Review 

Thank you to the publisher, Park Row Books, for inviting me to be a part of this exciting Blog Tour for Kimberly Belle’s latest novel Stranger in the Lake and for the eARC of this title via NetGalley.

Stranger in the Lake by Kimberly Belle

On Sale Date: June 9, 2020

Publisher: Park Row

ISBN: 978-0778309819

Pages: 352

Genre: Fiction, Thrillers, Psychological

My rating: 5/5

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Book Summary

When Charlotte married the wealthy widower Paul, it caused a ripple of gossip in their small lakeside town. They have a charmed life together, despite the cruel whispers about her humble past and his first marriage. But everything starts to unravel when she discovers a young woman’s body floating in the exact same spot where Paul’s first wife tragically drowned.

At first, it seems like a horrific coincidence, but the stranger in the lake is no stranger. Charlotte saw Paul talking to her the day before, even though Paul tells the police he’s never met the woman. His lie exposes cracks in their fragile new marriage, cracks Charlotte is determined to keep from breaking them in two.

As Charlotte uncovers dark mysteries about the man she married, she doesn’t know what to trust—her heart, which knows Paul to be a good man, or her growing suspicion that there’s something he’s hiding in the water.

I Thought…

Charlotte (Charlie), has recently married Paul Keller, a former widow and feels extremely happy in her surroundings. Paul is wealthy and the couple live in a gorgeous home overlooking Lake Crosby, North Carolina. The minted owner of Keller Architecture, Paul is a highly respected magnate and entrepreneur whereas Charlotte, a twenty-something gas station attendant, grew up in a caravan home, and often took charge of her younger brother, Chet when her mother was absent. Charlotte ignored all the rumours when she was swept off her feet by Paul. After all, despite her being a strong swimmer, the death of Paul’s first wife, Katherine, by drowning was deemed to be an accident. But when a second woman also drowns, in exactly the same spot under Paul’s jetty, secrets begin to surface…

 The story switches seamlessly between two timelines, the present and 1999, when Paul and friends Jax Edwards and Micah Hunt are spending their summer partying before leaving for college. The scenes from the present are mostly centred on the investigation that ensues. Stranger in the Lake has a thrilling premise and it is doubtlessly a spine-tingling story, while I regularly found myself pondering who to trust.

 With its comfortable pacing, the icing on the cake for me in this exhilarating tale was the incredible atmospheric setting. The lake was truly a malevolent presence throughout the proceedings. Kimberly Belle did a sterling job of exploring the motivation behind human weakness and imperfection, and I liked those aspects of the story detailing Charlotte’s bond with Sam Kincaid (Charlotte’s policeman friend), though I think more could have been made of this.

If you’ve enjoyed Kimberly Belle‘s previous books, or if novels with oodles of secrets, lies, misdirection and surprises dripping from the pages give you a buzz, then look no further than Stranger in the Lake!

A special thank you to Park Row Books, the author, and NetGalley for a complimentary copy of this novel at my request. This review is my unbiased opinion.

About the Author:

Kimberly Belle is the USA Today and internationally bestselling author of six novels, including the forthcoming Stranger in the Lake (June 2020). Her third novel, The Marriage Lie, was a semifinalist in the 2017 Goodreads Choice Awards for Best Mystery & Thriller, and a #1 e-book bestseller in the UK and Italy. She’s sold rights to her books in a dozen languages as well as film and television options. A graduate of Agnes Scott College, Belle divides her time between Atlanta and Amsterdam.

Social Links: Website//Facebook//Twitter//Instagram//Goodreads

Purchase at: Barnes & Noble / Books-A-MillionAmazon / IndieBound / Bookshop   

Until Next Time, 

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This Is How I Lied by Heather Gudenkauf | Blog Tour | Book Review 

Thank you to the publisher, Park Row Books, for inviting me to be a part of this exciting Blog Tour for Heather Gudenkauf’s latest novel This Is How I Lied and for the eARC of this title via NetGalley.

PUBLISHER: Park Row Books

PUBLICATION DATE: May 12th, 2020

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Book Summary

With the eccentricity of Fargo and the intensity of Sadie, THIS IS HOW I LIED by Heather Gudenkauf (Park Row Books; May 12, 2020; $17.99) is a timely and gripping thriller about careless violence we can inflict on those we love, and the lengths we will go to make it right, even 25 years later.

Tough as nails and seven months pregnant, Detective Maggie Kennedy-O’Keefe of Grotto PD, is dreading going on desk duty before having the baby her and her husband so badly want. But when new evidence is found in the 25-year-old cold case of her best friend’s murder that requires the work of a desk jockey, Maggie jumps at the opportunity to be the one who finally puts Eve Knox’s case to rest.

Maggie has her work cut out for her. Everyone close to Eve is a suspect. There’s Nola, Eve’s little sister who’s always been a little… off; Nick, Eve’s ex-boyfriend with a vicious temper; a Schwinn riding drifter who blew in and out of Grotto; even Maggie’s husband Sean, who may have known more about Eve’s last day than he’s letting on. As Maggie continues to investigate, the case comes closer and closer to home, forcing her to confront her own demons before she can find justice for Eve. 

I Thought…

 Having read another of Heather Gudenkauf‘s novels, Before She Was Found, I was thrilled to be able to read this one, too. Even if I hadn’t, the premise of this was novel was pretty exciting to me, as a keen crime fiction reader.

Twenty-five years ago, Eve Knox, aged 16, was murdered and her body found in the caves near her home in small-town Grotto, Iowa by her best friend, Maggie, and Eve’s sister, Nola. The case was never solved and now, further evidence has come to light. Maggie is now married, has worked hard at her job and has become Grotto PD detective Maggie Kennedy-O’Keefe. Heavily pregnant and soon to give birth, she is decides to take up the cold case…

Right from the start, I was completely absorbed by the suspense and the intriguing story-line. Heather Gudenkauf effortlessly brings to life many interesting characters in this pacy and gripping crime thriller, as well as delving into the motives and thoughts of each of them. Deadly menace and dangerous secrets are uncovered and the author is in complete control as she brilliantly manoeuvres this tale, blurring the boundaries between right and wrong, crime and justice. Heather Gudenkauf’s skilled writing made this appear effortless, keeping the story flowing so that I was never bored. With many twists and turns, I was totally engaged all the way through, until the fulfilling and very strong conclusion.

Overall, Heather Gudenkauf‘s special way with the narrative made this compelling tale quite distinct, resulting in This Is How I Lied being a very worthwhile read. If you’re a fan of the genre, you should really read this book! I will certainly be looking out for more of this talented author’s work in the future.

A special thank you to Park Row Books, the author, and NetGalley for a complimentary copy of this novel at my request. This review is my unbiased opinion.

Meet the Author:

Heather Gudenkauf is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of many books, including The Weight of Silence and These Things Hidden. Heather graduated from the University of Iowa with a degree in elementary education, has spent her career working with students of all ages. She lives in Iowa with her husband, three children, and a very spoiled German Shorthaired Pointer named Lolo. In her free time, Heather enjoys spending time with her family, reading, hiking, and running.

Social Links: Website//Facebook//Twitter//Instagram//Goodreads

Purchase at: Barnes & Noble / HarlequinBooks-A-MillionAmazonPowell’s   

Until Next Time, 

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The Summer Villa by Melissa Hill | Blog Tour | Book Review 

I am delighted to join the holiday blog tour for The Summer Villa by Melissa Hill today! My thanks to Harlequin Publishing for the invitation to join. I was gifted a copy of The Summer Villa to read in exchange for my honest review. 

Book Info and Rating  

THE SUMMER VILLA
Author: Melissa Hill
ISBN: 9780778359982
Publication Date: April 28, 2020
Publisher: MIRA Books                                                                                                Genres: fiction, contemporary, women’s                                                                Rating: 5 stars

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Book Summary

When a little white lie becomes the story of your life, what if the truth comes out?

For three women, it’s a life-changing trip: one finds the man of her dreams, another discovers inspiration amidst Italian food and culture, while a chance encounter with a handsome local ushers in the ultimate life change for the third. But most importantly, it’s the beginning of a deep and lasting friendship between all three.

Now years later, Kim Weston – entrepreneur and owner of internationally successful Italian food and lifestyle business, The Sweet Life – has bought and restored the tumble-down villa to its former glory – and plans to reopen Villa Dolce Vita as a wellness/cultural retreat – a fitting honor to the root of her business inspiration.

To celebrate the villa’s grand opening, she and her Italian business partners are throwing a huge three-day party; flying a group of family, business and media contacts to the Amalfi Coast to join in the celebrations. And most importantly, the (still) close friends who started the journey with her: Annie and husband Nate, whose love story began at the villa, and single mum Eva, whose son was the result of an ill-advised Italian fling.

But in the run up to the planned weekend in Italy, it becomes clear that not everyone is happy about the party, nor are they on board with such ambitious plans for the location. And, as Villa Dolce Vita’s grand relaunch draws closer, old memories and past secrets come to light, and the three old friends are forced to question if anything that happened on that first fateful trip to the villa is at all what it seemed.

I Thought…

The Summer Villa, an engagingly sweet summer escape, saw me relaxing in a pretty villa in Italy – it was certainly an enchanting read! I revelled in losing myself to Melissa Hill’s fabulous novel. The characters were amicable and convivial, though flawed, but still a real pleasure to get to know.

Three women, Kim, Annie and Colette, all fleeing from their problems at home, pitch up at a crumbling villa in Italy, called Dolce Vita. The women all form a close bond, and their lives are forever changed. Five years later, successful entrepreneur Kim decides to buy and restore the charming villa, and along with some business associates, is now planning a three-day grand opening. It will be a perfect opportunity for the three great friends to reunite and spend some time together enjoying themselves on the Amalfi coast. Naturally, everything does not go as planned – secrets are unearthed and old memories are dredged up, all resulting in oodles of melodrama.

Melissa Hill has written a divine story that is bursting at the seams with vivid and exquisite descriptions of Italy and Villa Dolce Vita. All of the characters were adeptly developed and I often found myself wishing I could be there along with my new friends, Kim, Annie and Colette.

I thoroughly enjoy books with strong friendship themes so The Summer Villa was a perfect read for me. The author’s writing was just as I expected it would be, first-class, and the perfect pacing and compelling plot-line all added a touch of style to the novel.

With its exciting resolution, this is one story you won’t want to miss! Very highly recommended without any hesitation to anyone looking for their next great read.

Thanks to NetGalley, Harlequin - MIRA and the author, Melissa Hill for the complimentary copy. This is my honest and totally voluntary review.

Meet the Author:

MELISSA HILL lives in south Dublin with her husband and daughter. A USA TODAY and international #1 bestseller, she is the author of 13 novels, including The Gift of a Charm and A Gift From Tiffany’s. The Gift of a Charm was a USA TODAY bestseller. Hailed “the queen of the big plot twist,” she combines all the warmth and humor of contemporary women’s fiction with plots that keep readers guessing from page to page. Melissa also cowrites forensic thrillers with her husband, Kevin, under the pseudonym Casey Hill, featuring crime scene investigator Reilly Steel. For more information, visit www.caseyhillbooks.com

Social Links: Website//Facebook//Twitter//Goodreads

Purchase at: Barnes & Noble // Kobo // Amazon // IndieBound // Harlequin // Walmart // Target // Google

Until Next Time, 

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The Third to Die by Allison Brennan | Blog Tour | Book Review 

I am delighted to join the holiday blog tour for The Third to Die by Allison Brennan today! My thanks to Harlequin Publishing for the invitation to join. I was gifted a copy of The Third to Die to read in exchange for my honest review. 

Book Info and Rating

Published: February 4th 2020 by Mira Books
ISBN: 9780778309444
Genres: fiction, thriller, suspense                                 
Rating: 5 stars

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Book Summary

New York Times bestselling author and gifted storyteller Allison Brennan’s new standalone thriller features a troubled female police detective and an ambitious FBI special agent who wind up at the center of a ticking-clock investigation into a diabolical serial killer.

Brennan’s novel will launch a book-a-year series featuring a fabulous cast of recurring characters. It’s the story of a troubled female police detective and an ambitious FBI special agent who wind up at the center of a ticking-clock investigation into a diabolical serial killer; and the bond they forge in this crucible sets the stage for the future books in the series.

Detective Kara Quinn is visiting her hometown of Liberty Lake, Washington, after being placed on administrative leave by the LAPD, when she comes upon the mutilated body of a young nurse during an early morning jog. The manner of death is clearly ritualistic; she calls it in. Meanwhile back in DC, special agent in charge Mattias Costa is meticulously staffing his newly-minted Mobile Response Team. One of his first recruits is the brilliant FBI forensic psychologist Catherine Jones. When word reaches Matt that the Washington state murder appears to be the work of the Triple Killer–it will be the first case for the MRT. Jones has done the only profile on this serial killer, but she is reluctant to join the unit, still shaken by the death of her sister a year ago under circumstances for which she holds herself responsible. But only she holds the key to understanding the killer’s obsessive pattern–three murder victims, three deep slashes a piece, each three days apart, each series beginning on a March 3rd–3/3, then a three-year hiatus before he strikes again.

This time they have a chance to stop him before he claims another victim strikes, but only if they can figure out who he is and where is is hiding.

I Thought…

Golly, what an impressive read this little gem turned out to be!

The Third to Die is the first book in a new series by Allison Brennan centring on the FBI’s Mobile Response Team. This newly formed part of the FBI consists of highly specialised agents who are top in their field, be it forensics, crime scene specialists or investigators. They are operational primarily in rural areas and this is their first case.

A serial killer has resurfaced whose preferred method of attack is to kill on March 3rd, 6th or 9th, every three years. Enter FBI special agent Mathias (Matt) Costa who has been advised that a body of a young nurse has been found in Liberty Lake and the murder fits the profile of the compulsive so-called ‘Triple Killer’.

Detective Kara Quinn, on enforced leave from the LAPD and out jogging in her hometown, made the gruesome discovery and offers her help in solving the case, which Matt readily accepts.

This story is zhooshed up by the addition of Kara who is a curious character, and fiercely independent with a strong sense of justice. The chemistry between her Matt is electric and they also share mutual respect for one another. The reader is privy to glimpses of ambitious Matt’s past involving his reluctant profiler, Catherine Jones. Not all is explained, but it involves a prior case that led to the death of Catherine’s sister. Matt himself is shrewd and makes a marvellous leader.

The mystery element in The Third to Die is magnificent and totally engaging, although not particularly offbeat. The tight time-frame keeps the plot rolling, with no opportunity to become mired in tediousness. The procedural aspects are solid with the exasperation of the team, hampered by bureaucracy, coming through winningly.

The Third to Die is wonderfully written in a style I relish and I’m in my reading element when a percipient perpetrator emerges to challenge a talented, super-smart team. This is a great start to what is sure to be a stellar series.

I enjoyed The Third to Die so much that I’m reading the books from Brennan’s other series’ and cannot wait for her next in this one.

Thanks to NetGalley, Harlequin - MIRA and the author, Allison Brennan for the complimentary copy. This is my honest and totally voluntary review.

Meet the Author:

Allison Brennan is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling and award-winning author of three dozen thrillers and numerous short stories. She was nominated for Best Paperback Original Thriller by International Thriller Writers, has had multiple nominations and two Daphne du Maurier Awards, and is a five-time RITA finalist for Best Romantic Suspense. Allison believes life is too short to be bored, so she had five kids. Allison and her family live in Arizona. Visit her at allisonbrennan.com

Social Links: Website//Facebook//Twitter//Instagram//Goodreads

Purchase at: Barnes & Noble // Kobo // Books-A-Million //Amazon //  IndieBound // Applebooks // Google Play

Until Next Time, 

A Fatal Flaw by Faith Martin | Review

About The Book

The brand new Ryder & Loveday novel from global bestseller Faith Martin!

1960, Oxford

As the city of Oxford prepares itself for the inaugural Miss Oxford Honey Beauty Pageant at The Old Swan Theatre, excitement is in the air.

Then, tragedy strikes the competition when one of the leading contestants is found dead.

Initially, the authorities assume her death was suicide. But after a malicious series of pranks and blackmail attempts are reported, WPC Loveday and Coroner Clement Ryder are called upon to solve the case.

In an atmosphere of fierce competition, the list of suspects is endless. Could what have started as harmless fun become a deadly race to win the prize?

With time running out, the duo need to spot the killer before tragedy strikes again…

A gripping murder mystery, perfect for fans of Agatha Christie and M.C. Beaton.

The Ryder and Loveday Series

Book 1: A FATAL OBSESSION

Book 2: A FATAL MISTAKE

Book 3: A FATAL FLAW

Book 4: A FATAL SECRET

Readers love the Ryder & Loveday series:

‘Insanely brilliant’

‘I absolutely loved this book’

‘Faith Martin, you’ve triumphed again. Brilliant!’

‘If you haven’t yet read Miss Martin you have a treat in store’

My Thoughts

I first discovered the author, Faith Martin a few months ago, when I read two of her books from the ‘Jenny Starling’ series, both of which I totally adored. I have not read any books from the series featuring Hillary Greene. “A Fatal Flaw” is the first book I’ve read from this series featuring WPC Trudy Loveday and Coroner Clement Ryder, though it is actually the third in the series and is published by HQ. So far, I have taken great delight in each book that Faith Martin has released. “A Fatal Flaw” has proven to be no exception.  

I loved Faith Martin’s characterisation of WPC Trudy Loveday who was enthusiastic, feisty, considerate and, at times stubborn.

Also quite special was the author’s portrayal of Clement Ryder, who was the area coroner. Ryder was a man who has experienced his fair share of life – someone of a certain age who has lived a little.

The duo, Trudy, always eager to learn and Ryder, worked really well together and being a probationary WPC, Trudy was determined to draw on Ryder’s wealth of experience. For his part, Ryder knew the potential in Trudy and their great partnership complemented the story beautifully.

“A Fatal Flaw” is so wonderfully well-written and the writing style was really comfortable for me, helping to tempt me into the story.  There was plenty going on which kept my attention throughout and I never once felt bored.

I found this mystery to be totally addictive once I had started to read it, so much so that I was hooked before I even had the chance to scroll to the second page! Faith Martin’s writing was so convincing that I  could have been another in their team.  

I thought “A Fatal Flaw” was a superb read and a real winner. I would recommend it to other mystery readers. I am looking forward to my next book by Faith Martin, whether that will be something new or a book I’ve never yet read from an existing series.

My thanks to #NetGalley, HQ Digital and the author for providing me with a complimentary advanced copy of #AFatalFlaw.

Brianne’s Book Reviews Rating | Five Stars

Happy Reading!

Barty and Darcy by Mo Bird | Review

About The Book

How often do we come across a couple who are complete opposites and yet bond brilliantly?

This book tells of a pig and a duck who suffer similar fates. Both of them run away from home and by chance meet up where they create a bond which proves unbreakable. Together they decide to seek a new future which is reliant on the pig finding a cure for his affliction.

Like a lot of mothers who encourage their children to pursue their talents Barty Hog’s mother was convinced her son was going to be a World famous singer. Unfortunately, neither she or Barty were aware of a serious problem he had with his voice.

There was also a similar situation with Barty’s new friend Darcy. The problem with Darcy was the fact that her legs were too long to pursue her first chosen career. Follow them both as they journey through their young lives trying to overcome what they call their handicap.

There could be a tear at the end, not only from Barty and Darcy but also you the reader!

My Thoughts

What an adorable, simple, little book! “Barty and Darcy” is a sweet and entertaining tale of a piglet, Barty, that aspires to be an opera singer and a duck, Darcy, a budding ballerina.

When I opened this wonderful book, my first thoughts were how beautifully it had been illustrated by Brenda Howden.

Bartholomew (Barty) lives on Gentle Farm and anyone who lives there is certain to have a long and peaceful life. He also has a magical voice and his dream is to sing at the most famous opera house in the world.

His mum, Elsie, makes it her mission to give Barty every opportunity to become a world famous singer.

Unfortunately, Barty suffers from Aqua Voce, a non-life-threatening condition that renders him unable to sing unless submerged in water.

In order to achieve this Elsie creates the Gentle Farm Symphony Orchestra with the help of the other farmyard birds and animals.

However, Barty’s fellow animals mock and boo him and embarrassed and upset, he runs away.

He meets Darcy at a pond some miles away, who, having failed at becoming a synchronised swimmer, empathises with him. Long-legged Darcy now hopes to become a ballerina.

The couple find out from a wise old owl that there is a cure for Aqua Voce but they have to travel to Italy to find it.

“Barty and Darcy” communicates a positive message of perseverance and eventually finding solutions to problems, no matter how big they might seem, in order to realise your dreams. The pig and the duck eventually became world-famous, but they never forgot the support of those who believed in them.

This story, as well as being very amusing in parts, was beautifully and vibrantly illustrated using different animals throughout and I would definitely recommend it. The book would make a lovely addition to a family library.

Thank you to NetGalley and Troubador Publishing Limited (Matador) for the complimentary ARC. This is my honest and totally voluntary opinion.

Brianne’s Book Reviews Rating | Five Stars

Happy Reading!