Book Review: Strawberry Sky by Jan Ruth

Strawberry Sky

Grown-up, romance-plus, contemporary fiction.

I was looking forward to this – the third book in the Midnight Sky series having read and enjoyed the two earlier ones.

I wasn’t disappointed. The main characters, Laura and James, had been through a lot in the first two novels, but the start of Strawberry Sky sees them married and ready to get on with their lives.

But now there is a set of new challenges for them to overcome. James is still recovering from the serious injuries he received in the second book and Callum Armstrong, the man believed to be responsible for those injuries, is still around and making his presence felt. James and Laura are also trying to establish a new business at their riding stables and then there’s the matter of Laura, desperate to have a baby but failing to conceive.

As in the earlier books, Laura’s sister Maggie and her family also play a major part in the story as their problems continue to impact on both Laura and James.

The supporting cast, including Rob the vet, and Laura’s assertive friend Carla, as well as the employees at the stable continue to feature strongly. And there’s a brilliant new addition of a young woman who comes to work at the stables and who has quite an effect on Laura.

So there’s plenty to keep the reader turning the pages. As always Jan Ruth’s characters are credible, three-dimensional and fascinating, and the setting of the Welsh mountains and countryside is beautifully drawn. As in the earlier books the healing power of being with horses features strongly too.

Yes all the features of a Jan Ruth novel are here – main characters who’ve lived long enough to have significant back-stories, stunning settings, and a satisfying and well-handled plot.

All in all a first –class read.

Incidentally you don’t have to have read Midnight Sky and Palomino Sky first in order to enjoy Strawberry Sky, but I recommend you do – just for the sheer enjoyment.

Back Cover Blurb: Maggie is devastated by her daughter’s plans, but Jess is determined to remove the past from her life no matter the upset it will cause. James is no longer running from his past, but a multitude of unresolved issues are set to catch up with Laura. As an orphaned foal and a motherless teenage girl slip seamlessly into her life, are they key to a positive change or an omen for impending danger? Armstrong is a troubled young man and a trail of minor events ends in a catastrophe no one could have predicted. Can the family ever recover, or should they simply trust in destiny?

Strawberry Sky is published by Celtic Connections and is available in paperback and as an e-book.

Book Review: Silent Water by Jan Ruth

Silent Water

Genre: Contemporary romantic fiction

I do like contemporary novels with romantic relationships at their heart, but I also like the characters, especially the women, to be twenty-first century in their aspirations, their experience and their way of life, and now I’m officially an old bat, I especially like them to be at least over forty.

Jan Ruth does not write soppy, unrealistically romantic, relationship tales, and that’s why I like her books. They tick all my contemporary romance criteria.

And Silent Water is no exception. It’s the third in the Wild Water series and I did enjoy being back with Jack and Anna once more. If you haven’t read the first two, I recommend you do so. You could do a box-set binge 🙂

Here are characters with full and messy lives. These are 3D people with flaws and baggage. They are credible, mixed-up and real. Even the children are complex and real. Eleven-year-old Lottie is a particularly vivid character.

Once again, the Welsh landscape is a bit of a character in its own right. There’s the brooding lake of the title and, the wilds of the mountain tracks, but there’s also the market town of Conwy and the seaside resort of Colwyn Bay. And, always, there’s the weather doing its bit to add to the atmosphere.

The plot is a tangle of various strands, the stakes are high and the emotion full on, but the author handles it all beautifully. Love in its many forms including marital, family and sexual runs through the whole story and it sets up plenty of conflict and a fair amount of jeopardy too.

There are moving moments of realisation and new self-knowledge for the main characters, as well as old patterns of behaviour which prove hard to escape from.

There are also twists and a level of suspense which made the final chapters especially hard to put down.

This is realistic, grown-up romance, peppered with grit and a fair bit of intrigue, and it all adds up to a highly satisfying read.

Type of Read: Feet up, comfy sofa, no distractions apart from very dark chocolate and a full-bodied red.

Back Cover Blurb: The tragedy and comedy that is Jack’s life; a dangerous web of lies concludes a bitter-sweet end. Jack Redman, estate agent to the Cheshire set and someone who’s broken all the rules. An unlikely hero or a misguided fool? In this sequel to Dark Water, Jack and Anna must face the consequences of their actions. As the police close in and Patsy’s manipulative ways hamper the investigations, will Jack escape unscathed? With her career in tatters and an uncertain future, Anna has serious decisions to make. Her silence could mean freedom for Jack, but an emotional prison for herself. Is remaining silent the ultimate test of faith, or is it end of the line for Jack and Anna?

Silent Water is published by Celtic Connections and is available as an e-book and as a paperback. The other two books in the series are Wild Water and Dark Water

Book Review: Midnight Sky and Palomino Sky by Jan Ruth

Midnight Sky

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

This a review of two novels, Midnight Sky and its sequel Palomino Sky.

In the first book we meet the two main protagonists of both novels. They are Laura Brown and James Morgan Jones. They are attracted to each other from the start. But the many differences between them and the fact they’ve both lived long enough to have their own complicated backstories mean that for most of the first book the reader is intrigued by the ‘will they/won’t they component of the story.

Palomino Sky 1

And although this question is resolved to some extent in book one, it’s by no means a finished story with all loose ends tied up. There’s lots more problems and dilemmas waiting for Laura and James in the second book.

As in the novel Silver Rain also by this author, the dramatic Welsh landscape features strongly, and, as in her novels Wild Water and Dark Water,  (which I reviewed here) there is once again a strong supporting cast of interesting three-dimensional characters. The main settings of the various houses and of the stables are vividly drawn and easy for the reader to picture.

The issues of early childhood influences, fertility, failed relationships, bereavement and serious physical injury are all sensitively dealt with and form strong story lines throughout both novels.

In both books, there’s a lot at stake for Laura and James. And because they are such interesting and sympathetic characters, the reader is gripped. The second book is even more introspective and intense than the first. And while Laura seems to be doing all the compromising, there is no doubt just how much James loves her. As you read, you are rooting for both of them to overcome their demons and find happiness together.

This is, as always from Jan Ruth, grown-up, romance-plus type of fiction and the endings to both books are satisfying but in no way sickly.

Type of Read: I recommend reading them both back-to-back in a sort of box-set binge way, with lots of tea and cake to hand.

Midnight Sky and Palomino Sky are published by Celtic Connections and are available in paperback and as e-books.