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What Eden Did Next, The Retreat and Lifesaving for Beginners on book reviewer Janet Gordon's list of top summer holiday reads

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Janet Gordon, who lives in Takeley, reviews best-sellers and debut fiction for the Indie...

Back in the “olden days” when I used to go on holiday abroad a couple of times a year, my husband used to get heartily sick of lugging around my suitcase which would be packed with books rather than clothes.

And yet I’d still buy more at the airport, where it used to be that there were special “airport editions” which I just had to have. After all, I justified it to myself, I could start and finish a book just on the plane – and it wasn’t even long haul.

My husband of course rebelled, but, very nicely, he bought me a Kindle Fire and breathed an enormous sigh of relief – apart from the fact that I usually discovered a second-hand book shop somewhere on holiday and ended up buying another suitcase to take my purchases home.

Now, of course, we have Rollo, our very needy little terrier, who doesn’t like being in kennels or being apart from us, so we holiday in the UK and I can pack the car with as many books as I want. And, invariably, I visit – and buy from – every second-hand bookshop I spot on our travels.

You can always spot people in the supermarket book aisles looking for a holiday read and I can’t resist poking my nose in and “helping” them with their decision. So here is a selection of holiday reads you’ll hopefully enjoy.

What Eden Did Next by Sheila O’Flanagan (Headline £20)

Sheila O’Flanagan is yet another best-selling Irish author and this is her 30th novel to hit the book charts – and it’s a situation that must have happened to many a widow or widower.

Eden is left a widow just weeks after she marries Andy, a hero firefighter, and just as she’s begun to suspect she is pregnant. Sadly, poor Andy never even knew he was to be a father.

So enveloped is she in the love of Andy’s family, who care for and look after her and her daughter Lila, that Eden never even looks at having another relationship.

What Eden Did Next by Sheila O’Flanagan (Headline £20) (57693036)
What Eden Did Next by Sheila O’Flanagan (Headline £20) (57693036)

Until, that is, she gets reconnected with a guy she knew back in her teenage days, and there is an instant connection.

But Andy’s mother seems to have Eden’s future all mapped out – is Eden strong enough to stand up to her?

O’Flanaghan is known for her heartwarming and empathetic reads, and What Eden Did Next will have you reaching for a tissue.

The Retreat by Sarah Pearse (Bantam Press £8.99)

It’s really amazing how a collective theme suddenly emerges – almost as if writers have got together and thought “let’s all write about….”. At the moment there are quite a few books on the theme of an island, bad weather, a killer and the visitors being unable to leave.

And one of the best is The Retreat, which is Sarah Pearse’s second best-seller following The Sanatorium, which I loved.

The Retreat by Sarah Pearse (Bantam Press £8.99) (57693032)
The Retreat by Sarah Pearse (Bantam Press £8.99) (57693032)

This time there’s a death at the bottom of the cliff below the yoga pavilion. The guests are desperate to leave, but there’s a storm coming and they’ve discovered the horrific rumours about their island.

DS Elin Warner investigates, but, while she does, the guests are expected to enjoy their stay!

Lifesaving for Beginners by Josie Lloyd (HQ £8.99)

Josie Lloyd needs no introduction and in this, her 15th novel, we meet Maddy, whose long marriage has just shattered, due in part to the fact her estranged son Jamie cannot be traced.

As a clue gives Maddy hope that he might be in Brighton, she packs her bags and heads off to find him.

Lifesaving for Beginners by Josie Lloyd (HQ £8.99) (57693040)
Lifesaving for Beginners by Josie Lloyd (HQ £8.99) (57693040)

And when she needs help she finds the Salty Sea-Gals, a feisty group of ladies who sea swim in all weathers and who encourage her to join them.

As more and more women join in – all of whom find reassurance in swimming together – they begin to realise just what lifesavers the Salty Sea-Gals are. Oh this is such a wonderful read.

Bloomsbury Girls by Natalie Jenner (Allison & Busby £16.99)

I can remember mooching around bookshops in what is known as Fitzrovia back in the 60s whilst all my friends were trawling through clothes shops. I’d meet them back at the Tube brandishing old and tattered paperbacks I’d bought whilst they showed off their latest purchases from Carnaby Street.

Bloomsbury Girls takes us back to the bookshops of the 50s where men managed and women made tea, but that’s such a simplistic view.

Self-effacing Evie Stone was one of the first female Cambridge graduates and thought she’d be a shoo-in for an academic job she’d set her heart on. But no, she ended up on the third floor of Bloomsbury Books cataloguing the rare book purchases.

Bloomsbury Girls by Natalie Jenner (Allison & Busby £16.99) (57693038)
Bloomsbury Girls by Natalie Jenner (Allison & Busby £16.99) (57693038)

And Vivien, desperate to be the fiction buyer, was relegated to following orders, as was Grace, who accepted the lowly secretarial role simply to feed her sons.

They all have their ambitions, and how they fulfil them whilst still keeping the spirit of Bloomsbury Books makes this such a delightful and insightful retro read.

The Legacy by Caroline Bond (Corvus £8.99)

Readers may remember the other week I reviewed The Gin Sisters by Faith Hogan where three sisters had to put aside their differences in order to make sense of their Dad’s will.

In The Legacy we have a similar theme. Dad Jonathan rewrites his will so that his three adult children have to decide between them how to split their legacy.

The Legacy by Caroline Bond (Corvus £8.99) (57693042)
The Legacy by Caroline Bond (Corvus £8.99) (57693042)

It’s complicated by the fact there is an ex-wife (the mother of the three children) and a new partner who broke up the marriage when Jonathan fell in love with her.

There’s so much angst, so many recriminations and much soul searching, along with anger and grief. It’s a thought-provoking read.

Falling by T. J. Newman (Simon & Schuster £8.99)

To read Falling whilst flying would be a bit like reading Jaws whilst floating in the sea around The Hamptons in the US, but it’s a real humdinger of a read.

There are more than 140 passengers on what should be a routine flight to New York, but, as the passengers settle in for the flight, their pilot discovers his wife and family have been kidnapped and the only way in which they can survive is for him to crash the plane.

Falling by T. J. Newman (Simon & Schuster £8.99) (57693034)
Falling by T. J. Newman (Simon & Schuster £8.99) (57693034)

T. J. Newman is an ex-stewardess so this, her first novel, has the true ring of authenticity and, my goodness, you don’t want to read on but you can’t put it down.

Gripping stuff, but perhaps not for nervous flyers!

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