A Leap of Faith by Trisha Ashley – An astonishing woman in a small community

A Leap of Faith: Amazon.co.uk: Ashley, Trisha: 9781784160869: Books

A Leap of Faith by Trisha Ashley

 

Sappho Jones, at the centre of this lively and well written book, has a past, present and future. Brought up by a remarkable pair of women, she has travelled extensively on her own and is a successful writer of travel guides and a fantasy author. Her present is marked by her friendships, including Bob who runs a creative school on a Greek island and several women with whom she was at university. Her future is suddenly determined by her realisation that it is her thirty ninth birthday, and the only adventure that she has not tried is motherhood. Not that she wants a relationship with a man at present; she is still pursued by Dave, a photographer who she was involved with at college and who will not take no for an answer. Sappho is a remarkable woman who has a vivid imagination and sees some of the people around her in terms of her characters, which adds to the humour of an already very funny book. Even her name is a memory of an ancient poet who jumped from a cliff, but Sappho has far too much to live for despite her tendency to stand on cliff edges; she has a cottage in Wales that has just become vacant and as it is near to her friend Miranda’s house she intends to collect up her possessions and move in. The novel is a story of a momentous time in Sappho’s life as she aids and abets her friends to change their lives, only to discover that her own lifestyle and choices become strangely affected by one of her characters come to life.

 

Sappho is a striking woman, tall and with very long hair, and she is instantly recognisable. With a firm independent streak she pays her own way with her not inconsiderable income, and can advise and help her friends. As she moves into her cottage in the memorably named Bedd, she discovers that a very determined woman, Dorinda, has disappeared in mysterious circumstances leaving her husband Gil under some suspicion. Miranda is distraught as her tv chef husband, Chris, who has always used her recipes, has sent her to Wales to live in her inherited cottage as she no longer fits in with his image. Sappho encourages her to rebel against him, especially when it seems he may be setting up situations which make her doubt her sanity. Another friend, Mu, is happily married to Ambler, an adventurer, but wants a baby more than anything. Meanwhile Lili is a woman who is determined to attract Nye, a potter who lives in Bedd, which leads to some interesting situations.  As parties and more happen in the small village there is no secrecy, so odd events create a lot of interest. Sappho of course is often at the centre of them.

 

This is an enjoyable book in  lots of ways, and there is a lot of fun in the story of a remarkable woman who is convinced of what she wants, until things change. As always with Ashley’s books, there is a community of friends which plays the part of a family, and each character is carefully drawn with great depth. As one of her older books there is a shortage of contemporary references to computers and phones except in passing, but this book is none the less a strong read which much to recommend it. It is a funny, dramatic and engaging read which I really enjoyed. 

 

As always, Trisha has written a book with a strong female lead who has come to a point where she must make a decision. it is a lovely read, a comfort read in several ways, and very entertaining. Just the thing for a sometimes grey August!

Every Woman for Herself by Trisha Ashley – a genuinely funny book with some Bronte allusions!

Every Woman For Herself: Amazon.co.uk: Trisha Ashley ...

Every Woman for Herself by Trisha Ashley

 

If there is comedy to be found in what looks like a tragic situation, this book by the witty and clever Trisha Ashley demonstrates how Charlie (or Charlotte) rises from two huge problems with the help of her memorable family. As part of a “Bronte experiment” by their father Ran, she has two sisters Anne and Emily, and a brother called Branwell, and they live in a large house called the Parsonage in Upvale, Yorkshire. When Matt, Charlie’s husband, is apparently suddenly seized by an urge 

to demand a divorce before returning to work abroad, Charlie soon realises that she must return home to her father’s house. 

 

As with several of Ashley’s other books, a change of location soon means a change of perspective and life, and with Charlie’s family and friends, she soon discovers a lot about herself. The characters in this book are superbly rendered; the redoubtable Em, the sister that runs the household and dabbles in other interests, Anne of the war – like disposition, and Bran the brilliant academic who is bewildered by everyday life. There is a new age nursery with an appalling child, and a striking actor with a bright little daughter. The house and extension which Charlie is forced into is described so well that it becomes another character, along with Gloria and Walter, and it does seem to be a very real, if slightly uncomfortable, place. 

 

Charlie narrates her story, and can only rationalise Matt’s decision to get a quick divorce by assuming he has been taken over by aliens. After twenty three years of married life in which she has not had children or developed an independent career outside the house, Matt presents his plans as “a fait accompli”. When Angie, the wife of “Groping Greg”, best friend to Matt,  turns up as a predecessor to a disastrous later meeting, Charlie is beginning to realise that the divorce demand is real. She has to travel to the Parsonage under a cloud, but gets what amounts to a welcome from her family. Another one of her father’s procession of mistresses is in possession of her old bedroom, so she moves into the Summer House with her precious collection of plants. As several members of the extended household begin to foresee what is ahead, Charlie begins to realise that many things are happening that are difficult for her to cope with, let alone foresee.

 

This is a very funny book in terms of both the characters and the amusing details which make for a really enjoyable read. I so appreciated the house that I wished that I could visit. Throughout the book there are little snatches for a magazine which Charlie idly considers starting, called “Skint Old Northern Woman” which is of itself a very funny idea. Including such stereotypes as never wearing warm clothes whatever the weather, it earnestly explains the difference between  mushy peas and pease pudding and other alternative ideas to the standard magazine.  This book is a little dated, as it originally appeared in 2002 so is pre internet and ubiquitous mobile phones, but is probably more interesting for that reason. I would recommend it to anyone who wants a very funny book which incidentally deals with some serious themes, and it is so easy to read.      

 

This is a lovely book to read at any point, but is especially helpful if life is proving difficult. There are some more serious issues raised here, but all are dealt with in a thoughtful way. I am enjoying working my way through Trisha Ashley’s books, and hope to be reviewing a few more soon when I can get hold of them, including the new “The Garden of Forgotten Wishes” (I had better start saving my pennies!)

A Good Heart is Hard to Find by Trisha Ashley – a horror writer seeks inspiration and more

A Good Heart is Hard to Find: The wonderfully funny rom-com from ...

A Good Heart is Hard to Find  (Or Singled Out) by Trisha Ashley

 

A writer’s life is not always easy, and when that writer is responsible for vivid and scary horror novels. Cassandra or Cass Leigh is a unique character, as she lives in a small village with an atmospheric graveyard and an understanding vicar, Charles. Cass has a couple of good friends, including Orla who organises singing telegrams in full costume, and Jason who has a difficult son and a wife who has disappeared. Cass is forty four years old, and has been in a relationship with a married man for many years when she decides that she wants to have a baby, even though she knows it is against the odds. Max, her older lover, is in America with his wife for an academic job, but has managed to string her along for years with vague promises of marriage. As Cass seeks inspiration for her latest novel, she goes to the large manor house in the village.

 

This is a novel that has a lot of humour, often around the outrageous costumes that Cass and Orla wear. The humour extends to some of the characters who appear on the sidelines, with Trisha Ashley’s usual flair. It has a lot to say about the choices that women have faced for years, especially whether to hang onto a relationship even if it is far from ideal, even at the risk to their fertility and consequent hopes of having children. There is also the theme of guilt, especially when others encourage the feeling. Cass is fascinated with the occult partly as a result of a father who has always told her that she is evil. Apart from that, she has a most unusual family of one sister, Jane, who always appears to be innocent, and four brothers who have very different ways of life. The names and family did remind me of another author, a certain Miss Austen, who probably never wrote in this particular genre…

 

In a truly classic twist, Cass encounters the new owner of the local manor house, which is advertised as “the most haunted house in Britain”. Dante, apart from appearing in costume himself, has a past which has also left him with feelings of guilt, and he seems suddenly determined to discover more about horror stories and writing a book. When the vicar organises the annual auction of people’s talents in the village for charity, Cass realises that she must potentially do more than seek inspiration, and that there may well be decisions that she makes.

 

This is a book which defies easy description, but is very entertaining and very funny. Cass’s writing is “reviewed” in short phrases at the start of each chapter which suggest that it is disturbing and yet addictive. Also as ideas for the stories come to Cass, she thinks through suitable lines to write during the night. The dialogue is also very funny, especially as it becomes known that Cass is hoping to find a father for a child. The set pieces of the confrontations between Max and Cass, and Dante with people from his past, are very enjoyable, especially in the context of vampire and other horror stories. This book introduces some fascinating characters, even the minor ones, as well as slipping in some big questions of family and friends. I recommend this book as a very enjoyable read.  

 

This novel is a good and entertaining read, with some very cheeky references. Although there are some tough questions here it is well written and very effective. Sometimes it is just this sort of entertaining book we need when life is tricky, and it makes a change from more “heavy” novels.  As always, great variety helps!

Written From The Heart by Trisha Ashley – a funny novel of a writer’s life

Written From the Heart: Amazon.co.uk: Trisha Ashley: 9781784160883 ...

 

A novel of a writer, who writes and critiques other writers, is often an interesting read. This book contains much more – humour, ballet and innuendo, literary festivals and friendship. Trisha Ashley has created Tina Devino who tells her story very much in her own words, and with her own suggestive tales of her regular lover, partner and friend, the retired but still active ballet dancer Sergei. There are letters throughout addressed to Tina’s agency for aspiring writers, where for a certain sum a range of individuals send their manuscripts of varying quality for Tina’s scrutiny and advice. She replies with humour and discretion and I enjoyed these insertions into the story very much. Meanwhile we see Tina’s interactions with various people in her life; her publisher, Salubrious Press with a surprise, her agent, Miracle, and her good friend Linny. She has local friends in the seaside town of Shrimphaven, who help her with diverse things as computers, as the internet was a new thing for her, and her pet mouse Minnie. This is a very funny book, with Ashley’s usual cast of characters and a plot that is far more than a straightforward romance. Tina is a wonderful creation, with a lot of determination to make the most of her career as a “mid list author”, and this is a most entertaining book.

 

The book opens with Tina receiving a dictaphone so she can make notes for her novels, which Linny confidently predicts will be bestsellers. That would certainly relive the financial pressures  on Tina, but meanwhile she will keep producing her novels of gardening and passion and supplementing her income looking through the novels sent to her, often too long, beyond definition and not even in convincing English. They make for funny interludes, as she copes with Linny’s random behaviour and Sergei’s regular phone calls. Her brother is convinced that the family is from an Italian gangster background, and his family are all that is left of Tina’s relatives. She is no longer in contact with her ex husband, Tim, but her long term part time relationship with Sergei is quite exhausting. She becomes determined to save her career in the face of blonde debut writers, and decides that as her publisher will not spend anything on publicity for her book she must get some herself. Happily, that may not be too difficult with Sergi on her team.

 

This is a most entertaining novel with some very funny incidents, all seen through Tina’s remarkable point of view. Her clothes and her concerns are always funny. Her experiences at literary events have a certain ring of truth, especially when she is trying to lead a writing session. There are plenty of imaginative events involving Sergei, who embraces celebrity with great flair. The letters that are sent by the would be writers are very funny, as they reveal their great hopes for success and fame despite their frequent misunderstanding of genre and writing altogether. Every part of this book gives a picture of an unusual woman with a great sense of fun.   

 

This book originally appeared in 2008 as “Happy Endings”, which explains why the attitude to computers and the ignorance of such things and mobile phones may be noticed. This novel, like the other Trisha Ashley books I have enjoyed and reviewed, features women who are forced to reassess their lives for various reasons. This one is a lot lighter than some. I think it is one of a great variety of books that have come my way recently, and is very different from the book I hope to review tomorrow.

Good Husband Material by Trisha Ashley – a classic romantic comedy with real flair

 

Tish is married – and to a suitable husband. James, a solicitor in the family firm, seems good, solid, reliable good husband material. He is on good terms with her mother, which is more than Tish is, supports her while she writes romantic novels, and is eager to become a father. He agrees, eventually, to move to an idyllic, country cottage.  The problem is that Tish is not that convinced. Part of her remembers her first love, the famous, or maybe infamous, Fergal, pop star, celebrity, notorious for his lifestyle of wine, women and song. She knows that she should make the most of her safe, orderly life with James, but somehow all her fictional heroes resemble Fergal far more than her “good husband”. This funny book, mainly narrated by Tish as James becomes less than attentive and indeed her life changes, brings in several other characters that are all beautifully depicted, ranging from her slightly disreputable grandmother to Fergal’s ambitious self appointed girlfriend. It is possible to visualize her cottage, its challenges and proximity to a village in this well written book, full of dialogue and thoughts that entertain and engage throughout. 

 

The Prologue is written from the view of a young Fergal Rocco, remembering his first glimpse of Tish at seventeen, falling from a tree. A vision of beauty, trying to capture a bad tempered parrot. Twelve years later Tish observes that when she writes her novels as “Marian Plentifold”,  all her heros “bear a definite (physical) resemblance to Fergal”. She manages to find and buy a cottage in the countryside, which means that James has a longer commute, and she will be living out of town without being able to drive. Owing to strange twists of fate, Fergal and Tish meet again in a hotel. Meanwhile, James is becoming more uncommunicative, abandoning Tish with a temperamental dog and parrot, refusing to eat what she cooks, staying away overnight and becoming obsessed with the local pub and radio building. The locals in the village include a strange neighbour, a local shopkeeper and a wealthy woman, Margaret who has her own agenda. When the local manor house is bought, things become even more lively for Tish, and her challenges seem to multiply. Will her grandmother plots help? Will her awful mother finally gang up with James? Why has he been spending so much time away? 

 

This book dates back to 2000, so predates mobile phones and the internet being everywhere. Research is more complicated, communication more tricky, and instead of social media the newspapers and magazines carry all the celebrity gossip that Fergal attracts. There is a lot of subtle comedy here, and there are some wonderful set pieces between various characters. Despite his supposedly wild ways, Fergal comes over as a good man, who tries hard for those he likes. The novel overall is genuinely entertaining and the character of Tish grows with the book, overcoming challenges and maintaining her independence despite her qualms. I really enjoyed this book, and would strongly recommend it as a positive book with a basis in real life.    

 

 

This sort of novel is a welcome distraction from other concerns, though there is a health scare in the story. It is very funny, with terrific characters and a lot more. Some characters demand sympathy, some dislike and others are just for fun. Even the animals add to the story. All part of the rich variety I am aiming for on this website!  

The House of Hopes and Dreams by Trisha Ashley: an old house is full of possibility – and danger

The House of Hopes and Dreams: Amazon.co.uk: Ashley, Trisha ...

 

An entertaining novel based on a little known but a fascinating skill, characters who have to find their way after challenges, a mystery set in a large country house, this older novel by a well known author is a great read in many ways. The profession of stained glass design and restoration is an intriguing subject for a book, and it is obvious that the author has researched not only the principles but also the daily practice of this ancient craft brought up to date. This being a novel there are no illustrations, but the descriptions are so good that it is easy to visualise their appearance and impact. The main female character, Angel, has so much courage in the face of lost love, home and future that she is an admirable lead for this book. Carey Revell is the requisite hero, though when first sighted he is in hospital recovering from a near fatal bike accident.Angel realises that she is one more of  a group of friends and women who are keen to be part of Carey’s new venture, the chances of the right romance seems remote. The large country house almost becomes an additional character in this novel, and overall the complete package is a great read. 

 

Another element of this book is the intermittent entries from the journal of one of the previous women who lived in the house. Her unhappy story provides a framework and commentary on the origins of the spectacular house, and help to explain some of the contemporary discoveries. The research into this part of the novel alone must have been daunting, but as with the rest of the novel there is no overload of facts as the story shines through at all times. 

 

Angel’s story begins with the harmonious picture of her working with her older partner and mentor, Julian. He had made a recovery from a stroke a while before, and Angel had maintained the business as well as helping him. Unfortunately, his unpleasant son Nat is soon on the scene with his vindictive partner Willow, and Angel must find a new home and business premises. Carey meanwhile is in hospital when he discovers that he has inherited Mossby, a large but rundown house. Bewildered by his change of circumstances having been left by his partner and ousted from his job presenting a cottage renovation programme, he soon realises that with support from his friends and his own skills he can transform the challenging building. A basis for a television restoration programme seems highly possible, especially if he can rope in a friend who knows about the stained glass for which the house is famous for, and Angel is thus roped in just as she needs a fresh start. New and old friends combine with a tiny terror of a dog to make this a memorable story.

 

This entertaining book is a good distraction and a genuinely engaging read, with an element of romance running alongside the humour and the excitement of a new start. There is sufficient mystery to maintain interest, as well as the element of threat to everything Angel has done, as well as the overcoming of certain characters who do not support the renovation. This is a light read in many ways, but makes the most of its subject matter to make for a funny, fascinating and lovely read. 

 

How are your book stocks holding up? Mine are fine, not that it stopped me from ordering some new ones and some older titles during the last week. I am topping up my book trollies with books that I am coming across in the house, so I shouldn’t be running out of reading matter anytime soon. Looking at twitter and book blogs by other people reminds me of books I have in the house somewhere and would be interesting to read and review, or sometimes re read. I am lucky that Northernvicar has really got the cooking bug now, and is producing some lovely cakes – though I must stick to my exercises!

 

Choc – lit …and popcorn moments

The dearth of posts recently has happened for a reason …too many cinema visits! Well, two actually. Last week with assorted (grown up) children to see Toy Story 3.  Very good, probably better than No. 2. And I wasn’t the only one in tears at the end! Overall, a good film if you like animated stuff. And my second visit to the cinema inside a week was to see…Karate Kid! Yes, rather predictable, but with some funny moments. And Jackie Chan was well worth watching, even if you are not a fan of martial arts films. I have banned children’s nurse daughter from seeing it on the basis of her being tempted to diagnose injuries throughout…Happy Birthday, by the way.

And the book that just makes you want to go and eat chocolate, and the expensive type at that? Chocolate Wishes by Trisha Ashley is not great literature – simply a quick read aimed at the female of the species with a predictable outcome. Having said that, Ashley doesn’t give herself the easiest time juggling white witchcraft, dysfunctional families and a chocolate making business. The other ingredient is a vicar with romance on his mind…well, what else in an English village. This is definitely a guilty pleasure book which doesn’t actually make you put weight on, unless you succumb to the search for the perfect chocolate feast. It will not win any awards and its literary merit is negligible, but who said that every book we read has to be a worthy struggle? After all, I am the person for whom a very knowing friend bought a mug inscribed “Chocolate is for Life, not just for Easter.” So this book does tick boxes, presenting a picture of life in an atypical village with atypical characters, but also throwing in a few wry comments about a young woman’s interests, passions and her painful realisation that her parents are always going to let her down.  So read, enjoy, and go easy on the chocolate!