In true British style the weather has changed and has brought grey skies and showers!

Photo Credit: Gurl

Whilst book shopping in our local supermarket, I have got to know and talk to quite a few people about books, and in particular book recommendations.  Last week, I was stopped and asked for a list of books I would recommend to read.  I wrote the list off the top of my head, you know, the books that you read and you remember.  

This, together with several book publishers to whom we owe reviews and holiday seasons approaching we thought we would put fingers to keyboard and write a long over due blog post on book recommendations.

In no particular order, our current list of recommendations:

1. When I Found You: Catherine Ryan Hyde

I was recommended this book by a dear friend in America.  

Nathan finds a newborn boy in the woods, he assumes he has found a tiny dead body.  The baby moves, and Nathan's life is changed forever.  The baby is sent to grow up with his grandmother, but Nathan cannot forget his and is compelled to visit her.  He asks that one day she will introduce him,   "This is the man who found you in the woods"  

It is a though provoking, enjoyable read.  I read the majority of the book in one day, it is one of those books when you start reaing you can't put it down. When Nathan finds a baby in the wood their, friendship and relationship starts.  No spoilers, I will stop their!  The story is not without it's ups and downs and it contains many life messages,  How one grows old and how the role reverses as children support their elders.  A story of unconditional loves, faith and honesty.

2. Shadow Hour: Kate Riordan

1922, Grace is following in her grandmothers footsteps as a governess to a little boy at Fenix House. When arriving at the crumbling and stately house, she meets the inhabitants.  Grace had heard many stories from her grandmother , over the years. It isn't long in to her visit when secrets appear in the house, her grandmothers stories show signs of cracks and everyone is protecting their own.  As the past meets the present, Grace unravels the secrets.

This book is a page turner and is cleverly written to bring together two stories, Grace's and her grandmothers (Harriet) which are fifty years apart.  It took me until Chapter six to get the just of the dual timeline.  But, both families are never far apart.  One book that contains so many emotions and thoughts.

3. Death of A Ghost - M C Beaton*

Mrs S was delighted to received an advanced copy of this book through the publishers - Grand Central Publishing.  She is a great fan of M. C. Beaton and was thrilled to receive Death of A Ghost to review. She has read just about every book Beaton has written.

A ruined castle in the village of Drim in Scotland, Hamish hears reports that the castle is haunted and lights are seen at night.  He assumes it is children or gangs using the castle to drink, or use drugs at night.  Both Hamish and his policeman Charlie, spend the night at the castle.  Charile falls through the floor, and Hamish finds the body of a dead man in the cellar.  Chief Detective Inspector Blair, arrives to investiagte the body, but the body can not be found.  But no body is to be found. Hamish has to find and identify the body and its killer before the "ghost" can strike again.

Mrs S review, "Beaton's books are never a disappointment, and this one is no exception.  Loved it, like I have all Hamish MacBeth stories.  This one, like all of the series, is an enjoyable read and I look forward to reading the next one."

Thank you to Net Gallery and Grand Central Publishing for the advanced copy of this book, in return for an open, honest and unbiased review.

4. The Hidden Girl: Louise Millar

Hannah and Will (her husband) long to have children, when they find out they can not have children of their own, they decide to adopt.  They lose out to another couple, and Hannah believes this is because they live in an apartment. They move to a remote house in Suffolk.  Barbara, a social worker, is scheduled to visit in ten days, Hannah wants everything in the house to be perfect in time for the visit in the hope that it will bring them their adopted child.  

The move encounters many problems, a snow storm means Will is stuck in London and Hannah is left to prepare the house for the visit.   A girl who lets herself in the house at her will, and as events unfold and she meets her neighbors, it is difficult to know who is friend and enemy.  A creepy read, that you can't put down!

5. Wedding at Christmas: Chrissie Mare

The Bensons, this is the last book in the series that follows the family.  I have to confess, it is the first I have read, and will not hesitate to read the others.

A Christmas wedding, brings images of white dresses, capes, holly, ivy, fairly lights, snow..... dreams.... Claire Benson has twelve weeks to organise her winter wedding.  Everyone starts to support her.  Sisterly squabbling, money issues, and her mother in law (ice maiden) soon threatens her big wedding day.  But her dreams are rescued and Christmas magic arrives.

A great family Christmas story and who doesn't love a Christmas wedding.  Warm, funny and lighthearted read, that can be ready any time of the year!

6. The Ice Twins: SK Tremayne

One identical twin died in an accident, but which one? The story is told through two people - the mother and a third person gives the fathers story.

Someone knows the truth - but who - mother or father? The surviving twin goes through quite an ordeal - but which twin is she?

The family move to a new home on a remote Scottish Island, they inherited.  They are isolated, and there the twists and turns of this psychological thriller starts.

Loved reading this book, it is gripping from start to finish.  Before you start reading make sure all the chores are done, once you start you cannot put it down!

7. The Breakdown: B A Paris*

Diving home one rainy evening on an isolated country road, Cass passes a car.  She sees a woman sitting inside, she stops momentarily, thinking the woman will approach her if she needs help.  The woman does not get out so Cass drives off.  The next morning she learns of the woman's murder.  This plays on Cass's mind, what if she had stopped? what if she had stopped, would she still be alive.  She tries everything to put the crime out of her mind, she promised her husband she would not use that road.  But she becomes riddled with guilt.

Her decision impacts her health, she starts forgetting things and becomes anxious and believes she has onset of early dementia, just like her mother.  A series of silent phone calls, has Cass believing the murderer is watching her.....

A psychological thriller that is incredibly well written, it had me spooked when reading it and the suspect I guessed - was no where near right!  This will keep you guessing until the end.

Thank you to NetGallery and Harlequin (UK) for the advanced copy of this book, in return for an open, honest and unbiased review.

8. Her Perfect Life: Sam Hepburn*

Gracie Dwyer lives close to a perfect life, a handsome husband, beautiful daughter, a TV personality, cooking programme, a catalogue of trusted friends and recognised where ever she goes.

Juliet, a single mother, living in a run down flat, jobless and an ex who is doing everything to run her life down.

The two meet and they forge an unlikely relationship, and this is where the lies, twists and betrayal starts, mix this with extracts from a diary written in the past by Pauline Bryce and........ no spoilers so I will leave it their!

This novel is not fast paced, and can be read in a few sessions, but it does have mystery and intrigue that keeps you hooked and guessing.  With an ending that I didn't guess!

Thank you to NetGallery and Harper Collins UK for an advanced copy of this book, in return for an open, honest and unbiased review.

9. Everything But The Truth: Gillian McAllister*

Everything But The Truth, is a novel about deceit, betrayal and Rachael's need to unravel the truth about Jack.

All seemed well with their new relationship, until Rachael sees a glimpse of  an email on Jack's ipad.  She didn't mean to look, after all she loves Jack and has just learned she is pregnant with her first child with him.  But having seen the email, she needs to know who it was from and the details.  When she does read it, it sets of a series of events in her mind and she starts to doubt Jack...

What is Jack hiding?  Why is he hiding his past?  What happened? and does Rachel have any right to unravel the truth and if she does what will the consequences be?

A suspense novel about love, lies and deceit.  Rachael becomes obsessed about finding out the truth about Jack and his past.  Only she also has a past that Jack is not aware of.  A page turner, a little predictable but enjoyable read.

Thank you to NetGallery, Penguin UK - Michael Joseph, for an advanced copy of this book, in return for an open, honest and unbiased review.

10. Sister Sister: Sue Fortin*

This is an exception psychological thriller written by Sue Fortin.  We have written a previous review blog on this novel - see previous  Blog Post for details

 11. Girl Behind The Lens: Tanya Farrley*

Photography student Joanna Lacy has always been close to her mother.  Rachael Arnold turns up on their doorstep, telling them that a man's body has been found in the canal, at that point Joanna's world changes.  Rachael married Joanna's father, and now he is dead.  Joanna attends the funeral, and meets Oliver, the man who found her fathers body.   She is convinced her mother is still keeping things from her and turns to Oliver for support.  We learn that Oliver has a secret of his own, and Joanna suspects something isn't right.  

A tangled web of two stories intertwined.  This book reads as one of mystery and suspense novel.  It keeps you guessing and makes for easy reading.

Thank you to NetGallery and Harper Collins UK, for an advanced copy of this book, in return for an open, honest and unbiased review.

12. The Idea of  You: Amanda Prowse*

Lucy Carpenter is approaching her 40th birthday, and she starts to feel like he has it all.  A wonderful husband Jonah - , successful career and the chance to have a baby of her own.  In fact, life could not be more perfect. But becoming parents is harder than they can imagine.

Jonah's teenage daughter - Camille - comes to stay, and she becomes a constant reminder of all the things Lucy does not have, and she starts questioning her husbands love and support.  Things start to take their toll on Lucy.

This book is a truly amazing story, easy reading and a emotional.  Following the life of Jonah and Lucy's life is heart warming and gut wrenching. It is a must read, and a story that will stick in my mind for sometime.

Thank you to NetGallery and Lake Union Publishing, for an advanced copy of this book, in return for an open, honest and unbiased review.

We love a good book and hope you will also enjoy some of these.

Have a lovely weekend.

Serendipity Loves x

* We have received advanced copies of these books through NetGallery and the Publishers in return for an open, honest and unbiased review.

It has been awhile since our last blog, the past month or two have been hectic and blogging is the one thing we just do not get to do much off. This is, unbelievably, the first opportunity we have had to sit down since the last weekend in March to put fingers to the keyboard and type!

We are in Spring here in the UK, so far the seasons weather has been kind to us, with some lovely sunny days here in Wales. The sun has been shining and rain is not forecast until next week. We love reminiscing, and we have been promising several of our Instagram readers a blog since we posted this picture of a gorgeous cottage where we visited for a family 18th Birthday celebration.

This is the Fox and Hounds, in Wolvesnewton, located between Cheptsow and Usk in South East Wales.  The last week in March, was Mr and Mrs S's eldest grandsons (and of course my nephews) 18th Birthday.

18th Birthday Celebrations

Photo Credit: Serendipity Loves

An 18th Birthday brings with it many mixed emotions. I have watched my nephew grow from baby, toddler, to the fine young man he is today.  Spending many of the school summer holidays with both him and his younger brother, making memories that will last us all a lifetime.  We may be biased, but he is awesome, they both are!

The eldest, and whose birthday we celebrated is getting ready to sit his A-Levels this summer and has several offers for University placements.  We have everything crossed for him, and truly hope he gets the grades and University place he deserves.  Without a doubt, he has worked incredibly hard to get where he is today.  Sharing his 18th birthday celebrations with him, was an absolute pleasure and a day our family will not forget.  A day full of happy memories, we love family times.

The Fox and Hounds Cottage

We promised to share some details on the cottage, it is gorgeous inside and out.  It is set in a secluded spot, with the owners living in the Old Rectory close by.  It has been renovated, in a modern country style, sympathetic to the cottage and features.

The entrance opens into a flagstone floor an beamed ceiling dining room, with the original staircase in situ and an open fireplace with stove.

A cosy living room, with a wood burning stove, kitchen with a view of the surrounding fields and a sizable bathroom also on the ground floor. 

The upstairs has two bedrooms, one with an en-suite shower room and the second with two single beds and original cast iron fireplace.

Without a doubt, the property is tastefully decorated, in keeping with the style of the property.  The walls are curved, sash windows, iron door latches and hinges, gorgeous leather chairs to name but a few details.  Add the 18th birthday decorations and a beautiful sunny spring day into the mix, and our celebrations began. 

An enjoyable day, gorgeous surroundings, tasty food and great company.  A day of celebrations making family memories.

The following day, Sunday, was Mother's Day here in the UK.  A few treats for Mrs S, including a roast pork dinner cooked and served by me!  On the Monday, she celebrated her 77th birthday.   Three days of celebrating!! Her birthday was a quiet day after the weekend, but lots more treats and presents for her.  Including a tiramisu birthday cake, this is here favorite and always reminds her of sitting in St Marks Square, Venice.  A daily ritual of ours on our Venice holidays is eating Tiramisu in the Square and watching the world go by - yum!

Mrs S means the world to her three children, and we love her more than she will ever know.  We were her full time job, and have amazing happy memories of our childhood and growing up.  As I have grown up she has become my best friend, craft buddy and so much more.  Mrs S has instilled in all three of here children strong family values that make us who we are today.  And I for one (and know my brother and sister feel the same) are grateful for all the time she has invested in us to make us the adults we are today.

Hello Spring

Photo Credit: Unknown

We love spring, it is our favorite time of the year, we have started clearing the garden and planning ahead for this year.  Making the most of the sunny days, as our weather is so unpredictable here in the UK.  The cherry blossom is in full bloom, along with the magnolia.

Photo Credit: Serendipity Loves

The garden is in it's blue phase, full of forget-me-nots and bluebells.  The first of the clematis buds have burst open and the lily of the valley are close to opening.  Excited to share pictures soon.

Looking forward to a relaxing weekend.  Further details of the Fox and Hounds Cottage can be located on the holiday cottages website link here

Serendipity Loves x

All photographs of the Fox and Hounds Cottage are taken from the Holiday Cottages website, who own the rights.
To mark the end of January we posted this photo on Instagram of Rita Hayworth and Fred Astiare.  Mrs S and I started reminiscing with some of our Instagram followers, and also at Serendipity Loves HQ (aka our home!), of our favourite classic black and white movies and movie stars.

Credit: Unknown

Mrs S and I started reminiscing with some of our Instagram followers, and also at Serendipity Loves HQ (aka our home!), of our favourite classic black and white movies and movie stars.

Classic Movie Love

My all time movie favourite is The Philadelphia Story (1940), not the musical version which is called High Society (1950), the edition with Cary Grant, James Stewart and Katherine Hepburn.  It is a film I could sit and watch all day, everyday.  Katherine Hepburn is a favourite classic movie star of mine. 

Credit: Movie Posters: Scan Collections

Credit: DoctorMacro

Mrs S loves all the films with Dame Margaret Rutherford DBE acting, especially the Agatha Christie stories.  To name but a few - Murder Ahoy,  Murder at the Gallop, Murder Most Foul and Murder She Said.


As I am typing this I can hear the music playing! Our favourite part in Murder at the Gallop is where Mrs Marple is dancing with Mr Stringer (Stringer Davies) and says "Hot it up Mr Stringer."  It always makes us both chuckle when they both start twisting and dancing with speed.  It is amazing to think they were both married in real life.


Mrs S has many classic films she loves to watch.   I do know, without asking, her favourite of all time is Mrs Miniver (1942).  he leading lady is Greer Garson, not only does Mrs S love the film, she adores the 1940 fashions.


Mrs S eldest daughter, also loves the classic movies.  And again, I know without asking her she loves the Audrey Hepburn, Katherine Hepburn and Grace Kelly.  However, (hangs head in shame) I didn't know her favourite film is Brief Encounter (1945).


Credit: Cinematic Frontier

There is a trend here among the Serendipity Ladies - We love the 1940s - films and fashion!

Our Classic Movie Valentines

Talking about movie stars with Mrs S last week, I learnt a little more about our family history and our favourite leading male actors from the classic Movie collections.  Between the homes of the Serendipity Ladies we have quite a collection of movies.

Without a doubt my all time favourite leading male actor is Cary Grant.  I have many of his films and have read many books on him.


I asked Mrs S who here favourite male lead actor was and she said "Oh I don't think I have one",  I think, I got this response as Mr S (aka Dad) was sat in the room! Although I do believe it is Spencer Tracy.  I think we are safe, as Mr S doesn't read our blog.


Mrs S eldest daughter, confession time - I had to ask her as I didn't know (hangs head in shame - again!) is Cary Grant.  So a special photo for her this Valentine of Cary Grant with Grace Kelly.


Until Last week, when the Serendipity Ladies were talking about classic movies, I had no idea my grandmothers favourite was Jeff Chandler.  I think he looks a little like Cary Grant! 


My great grandmothers was Gary Cooper.


We are wondering how many of our followers are also fans on classic movies and movie stars....Please do share with us, we would love to hear from you.

Happy Valentines Day
Serendipity Loves xx

It's just gone 5pm here in the UK and it is still light outside!  Oh how we love the lighter nights, but it is still very cold and we have a north wind.  A northerly wind brings with it cold weather and often snow.  We are definitely still in Winter.

We have noticed, the first signs of spring are starting to appear in the garden and around us.  We love nothing more than watching the the garden begin a new life, and  unfold into all it's glory.

The earliest flower we often see, and we have seen a few starting to flourish this week, are snowdrops.  We love their delicate white flowers and are always pleased to see the first snowdrops appear.  Although I have always planted these, they never seem to grown in our garden.  But thankfully we are surrounded by a mountain and country walks where we see plenty.  Mrs S and I, have been out and about on a few walks last week.

Credit: Great British Gardens

Some bulbs we do have success in the garden with, and we already have green shoots starting to appear, are  daffodils and tulips.  I always wonder how these delicate plants survive this cold weather.  

Credit: Beautiful Flower Pictures
Credit: Gardening Know How

 Although we have never planted bluebells in the garden, we have an abundance.  Some inherited from the previous owner, and I do believe we have a few self seeded from the mountain where we live.  We are not far from bluebell woods and love nothing more than watching the colours of the mountains unfold at this time of year.  Every seasons brings a different view from our windows, and we love it.

Credit: Natasha Solomon

Whilst out walking last week Mrs S and I noticed the Catkins are in abundance on the trees.  These bring back memories of walking home from school, I always remember we called these "sheep tails" and we always wondered how the sheep were managing without their tails!  Strange I know, but the imagination of a child is priceless.  

Credit: Hawk Conservancy
As I write this, we are losing the light but it is just 5:30pm (UK) and the birds are chattering away outside, another sign spring is on it's way.  We have bird food in the garden, and it is lovely to awake hearing and seeing the birds feed.  

Credit: Surf Birds
We have a resident robin, and last year for the first time had baby robins in the garden.  This year brings some new bird houses to the garden.

Still a touch of light outside, but there is a definite wind, off to light the fire and keep warm for the evening.  

Have a good week.

Serendipity Loves xx

We were delighted to be contacted by Bertie and Jack at the end of last year.  It is a pleasure to introduce Becky and Emma (partners of Bertie and Jack) to our blog, as our first meet the makers of 2017.

I first came across Bertie and Jack, not long after I purchased my first and current home.  This was when Becky and Emma were in their early years of business together.  Mrs S and I, were on a Christmas shopping trip to Bath and we stopped by the Bertie and Jack stall.  It was difficult to decide which print I loved the most - I loved them all!  I decided on the songbird print, which I loved and still love.  It is a print I have never tired of, and love more and more as time goes by.  It is fresh, modern and original. 


We are delighted to have Becky and Emma as our meet the maker's this weekend and we have enjoyed learning more about Bertie and Jack.

Meet The Makers: Bertie & Jack

Tell us a little about Bertie & Jack, how your product is different and how you started the business.

Bertie and Jack is a decorative wall art brand synonymous with original, collectible and feel good art to work and celebrate life changing moments.  I

Our product idea is really simple but we are the first to create art in this way; the artwork is made by machine cutting our hand-drawn illustrations from mount board and layering colourful unique prints behind the cut-out shapes.  Simple but so effective!  And importantly, all our products are designed and produced here in the UK.

The business itself was started by best friends Becky Macey and Emma Hughes after the arrival of their children, Bertie and Jack in 2009.  Their retail journey began as street traders in their home city of Bath with just a suitcase of artwork and a bucket load of determination.  

Since then the range has evolved and seven years later, Bertie and Jack are ranged in department stores like John Lewis and through online retailers such as Not on The High Street (NOTHS)

Have you always been creative, and where does your inspiration come from?

With more than one fine arts degree between us, as well as a background in marketing to throw into the mix, we are a family of self confessed creative persons who find inspiration for our artworks in everything from a family trip to the zoo, to the latest fashion trends, colours and prints.

What does handmade mean to you?

Handmade means creating artworks from our hand-drawn illustrations and prints, creating bespoke personalised artworks that are unique to each customer.  It is about creating meaningful and well-crafted artworks.

What are you both looking forward to this new year?

We do not like to sit still for long, nevertheless, after our crazy busy Christmas time, we do get together with lots of coffee reflect on the year passed, and allow for some time to re-energise, creatively recharge and set goals for 2017.  We are looking forward to creating and launching new designs and new products.  We will keep you posted!

We look forward to seeing what 2017 brings for us from Bertie & Jack!  If you would like to find out more about Bertie & Jack and their products you can find further details on their website (here), Instagram (here), Facebook (here), Twitter (here) and Pinterest (here).

New Year Giveaway

Becky and Emma have very kindly provided a generous £60 voucher in total.  The lucky winner will be able to use the voucher, to select their own print, on Bertie & Jack's website or in person at their market stall in Bath. This is such a fab treat for yourself, or a gift for someone.  I love my print and I know the winner will cherish theirs too.

To be in with a chance of winning:
  • You must be following both both Bertie & Jack (HERE) and ourselves, Serendipity Loves (HERE) on Instagram.
  • Like the GIVEAWAY post on our Instagram page (HERE).  Repost the photo using the hashtag #Bertieandjackgiveaway. Or TAG friends into the giveaway photo on our Instagram page 
  • If your account is private please confirm in the comments you have reposted.

Feel free to tag anyone one into our post or your post who you think would be interested in entering.  The competition is open to UK entrants only.

The giveaway will close on 31st January at 8pm and the winner will be picked at random using a random name generator.  We will announce the winner via Instagram on xxx and details of how to obtain the voucher from Becky and Emma.

Thank You

A very big thank you to Becky and Emma for taking the time to be our first meet the maker for 2017 and providing a generous giveaway to start the new year.  

Wow, what an amazing way to start the new year! Wishing everyone good luck with their entries.

Serendipity Loves x

This post has been written in collaboration with Bertie & Jack. 

All photographs contained within have rights reserved by Bertie & Jack and should not be produced without their prior permission.

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